San Jose next budget is likely to see cuts in staff salaries, reduced health and retirement benefits, more community centers put up for lease, new cuts in library hours and delays in opening two new branch libraries.
Those are just a few of the cost-saving strategies that the San Jose City Council approved in concept after a day long session on Thursday, November 18, aimed at starting the process to fill a projected $70 million shortfall in thebudget. The 8-1 vote gave direction to the City Manager’s budget staff to look at these and a multitude of other ways to save money as the budget document develops.
Council member Ash Kalra , District 2, voted against giving any direction at this time because he said it could be counterproductive to making “real agreements” with the 11 bargaining units that represent most of the city’s 5,840 employees. Council members Nora Campos and Kansen Chu were absent.
Most of the public speakers represented unions and appealed to the council to delay voting on a direction until newly elected council members could be seated and collective bargaining could begin.
The city faces a deficit for the 10th year, meaning costs continue to outpace revenue, with an economic outlook described as dismal for the near future. Mayor Chuck Reed and every council member at the session predicted a painful budget process that will mean cuts in services to residents.
Some services that received one-time funding in the currentbudget will see that end on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. This means that 22 community and neighborhood centers across San Jose will join 21 centers already targeted for “re-use” by private or non-profit agencies instead of being run by the city, which can no longer afford to operate them. Six city pools, three leased by schools and a lake will also need new arrangements with private operators to provide aquatics programs.
Funding for the Senior Nutrition program, which provides meals to seniors at community centers, will also end, but city leaders are looking for alternative financing and new methods to continue this service. Financial support for such popular events as Christmas in the Park and the Holiday Parade will also be eliminated on July 1, forcing the organizers to find alternative funding.
San Jose’s branch library users could see days of operation cut fro 4.5 to 4 in thebudgets. Also, the new Seven Trees and Bascom libraries, which are completed, may not open for use until September.
Library Director Jane Light said that three months into reducing days of operation from 5 to 4.5, as approved in the current budget, saw the number of visitors reduced by 9 percent, and material checkouts by 6 or 7 percent.
The next step in thebudget process will be a January budget survey and a budget priority setting session with neighborhood associations and youth commissioners. The council will discuss thebudget again in February.