Oakland Mayor lays out $3.85B budget proposal for 2021-2023

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released her 2021-23 budget Friday, a $3.85 billion plan that includes $41 million for homelessness.

The plan does not replenish the city's rainy-day fund or pay for all basic services with on-going funds, putting the city in a precarious position.  

But in the short term, Schaaf aims to address homelessness, public safety, jobs, and healthier neighborhoods with what she's calling a Just Recovery Budget.  

"It invests in Oakland's most pressing demands of the day: homelessness and housing, public safety, streets and long-term fiscal health," she said in a statement.  

The $41 million proposed to address homelessness would go toward preventing more, stabilizing homeless residents with interim housing and hygiene supports and helping them obtain permanent affordable housing.  

The budget will pay for crews to clean homeless encampments, doubling the number the city will clean and service relative to pre-pandemic levels.  

It also provides $2.6 million over two years to create and ramp up Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland, a non-police response to people having a mental health crisis.  

Schaaf's office also said her budget preserves core police services. Eighteen percent of her budget goes to police, lower than in the past, her office said.  

Advocates for police reform have called for a 50 percent reduction in the police budget of $300 million in fiscal year 2020-21.  

Schaaf's budget gives police $325 million in 2021-22 and $334 million in 2022-23.  

 The mayor's budget proposes in fiscal year 2022-23 moving some vehicle enforcement activities to the Oakland Department of Transportation. They include the abandoned auto, scofflaw, commercial and taxi details.  

Schaaf aims to enhance staffing in the new Department of Workforce and Employment Standards to benefit workers and small and disadvantaged businesses.

The budget also makes a contribution to the new Chinatown Business Improvement District and funds a position to help East Oakland develop economically.  

The mayor's budget aims to curtail blight and illegal dumping with $1.6 million that provides for Free Dump Days. Previously known as Bulky Block Parties, residents on the last Saturday of the month can dispose of large items for free.  

Oakland received $192 million from the American Rescue Plan, a federal COVID-19 relief effort.  

Nearly $59 million of that is being used in the current fiscal year while the balance will help close a $274 million baseline budget deficit for the 2021-23 period.  

City councilmembers will look at Schaaf's budget over the weekend. The City Council will consider the budget and any City Council amendments to it at a 1:30 p.m. meeting Monday.  

"I'm hoping to see a budget that prioritizes homelessness and affordable housing; community safety and violence prevention; a just and equitable recovery for Oaklanders; services for every neighborhood; and dignity for our frontline City workers," City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a statement.  

"This budget is an opportunity to make system-wide investments that will help lead us into a COVID-19 recovery that ensures more affordable housing and job opportunities for vulnerable Oaklanders and cleaner and safer streets and neighborhoods," she said.  

Bas said the budget must support all residents, especially those without homes, city workers, "essential" workers, and minorities and immigrants.  

"We cannot go back to the status quo--the unacceptable conditions our most marginalized communities were already facing pre-pandemic and that have only worsened during COVID, Bas said.  

Schaaf released her budget one week past the legal deadline.  

"The challenges of this year have made it difficult for everyone to meet pre-COVID deadlines," mayoral spokesman Justin Berton said.

 "The Mayor is not delaying the public presentation of the proposal that is scheduled for May 10, and it will not have any appreciable effect on the two months that remain for robust inquiry and debate before Oakland's budget is adopted," Berton said.  

A balanced budget needs to be approved by the City Council on June 30.

The City Council was a month late in holding a workshop on the budget.