Two years ago San Jose’s budget looked grim. Mayor Chuck Reed warned the City Council that the city might have to close all its branch libraries, and lay off all its crossing guards and park rangers and some police.
On Tuesday night the City Council was looking at a much brighter picture. It passed a $2.6 billion budget that restores a few of the line items.
It accelerates hiring of police officers and reopens a shuttered station. It hires 21 community service officers who can take reports, easing the pressure on beat officers. And it restores most of the 10 percent pay cut that police officers took in 2011.
Mayor Chuck Reed told the chamber it was a relief to not be discussing layoffs and service cuts for a change. “Two years ago, we were sitting right here facing a $115 million shortfall,” he said. “But the council took some bold actions, some difficult actions, adopted a fiscal reform plan, and we’ve been in the process of digging our way out.”
KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler reports that the budget also includes modest increases in funding for gang prevention work, homelessness, parks, libraries and street maintenance.
Among the reasons for the improved outlook was a ballot measure passed by San Jose voters in 2012 that cuts the retirement benefits of city workers.
City unions are fighting the measure in court. If they prevail, the budget will fall short by $20 million and the city may have to go back into slashing mode, Reed warned.
Janice Rombeck, editor and publisher of KQED News Associate NeighborWebSJ, said the predominant mood was relief.
“They ended up with a small surplus so they were able to restore some services, but not a whole lot, certainly not to where they want it to be,” she said. “A lot of the wish list did not get fulfilled.”
For example, other city workers who took a pay cut didn’t get their salaries restored.
The number of city workers will rise to 5,751, up 129 from 2012-2013, but still below the peak of almost 7,500 positions in 2001-2002.