City of Pleasanton

After confirming that it would indeed have the power to readjust the police department’s funding at a later date, should it choose to do so, the Pleasanton City Council last week approved a mid-year budget.

The city shows a strong position with minimal cuts to balance the budget despite the pandemic.

On the heels of several public comments requesting that the city consider defunding its police department, both Mayor Jerry Thorne and Councilmember Julie Testa wondered if the council would have the power to readjust the budget should they indeed decide to divest. City Manager Nelson Fialho confirmed the council could choose to adjust the budget at any point. Jacob Bauer — a young man struggling with mental health issues who was killed by Pleasanton police in 2018 — was a name mentioned multiple times throughout the evening in the call to defund the agency. The police department currently receives $30 million of the city’s budget.

“Jacob Bauer’s life mattered, but our collective failure … resulted in the summoning of armed law enforcement to intervene during his time of need,” said Isaac Alias, a public commenter. “We can’t accept this for the next Jacob Bauer. We need to start questioning what services and staffing could be envisioned so that police won’t be the hammer we reach for when there’s a person in crisis.”

Prior to the vote at the June 16 regular meeting, Tina Olson, City of Pleasanton Director of Finance, presented a 2020-21 mid-term budget update. The update included the revised revenue estimates, recommended adjustments to expenditures and transfers, and options to balance the budget in the event revenues are less than expected. She outlined the goals to maintain both a balanced budget and prudent reserves, along with the funds for essential city services.

“Looking at the budget overview, you can see where on the expenditure side, the general fund is the only one we’re proposing to net reduce expenditures by $3 million,” Olson said. “Enterprise funds, internal service funds and special revenue funds are all proposed increases, giving us a net increase of about $900,000 from the original budget for 20-21, bringing us to $191.6 million budget.”

The recommended adjustments include a net revenue reduction of $642,159, an increase to the transfers out by $2.5 million and a net reduction of $3 million in expenditures, resulting in a balanced budget.

On the revenue side, Olson reported seeing a continued increase in property taxes, prompting staff to increase the budget by $1.1 million — an assessed valuation increase. However, given the impact of the shelter-in-place, sales taxes saw a decrease of about $1.7 million, along with reduction to the hotel and business license income of nearly $1.9 million. Development saw a slight increase of $67,500. Recreation fees showed a reduction of $149,000. Other reimbursements and grants increased by $1.8 million.

On the expenditure side, the $3 million reduction to balance the budget was comprised of reductions to personnel, travel and training, repairs and maintenance and capital outlay, with a small increase to materials and supplies.

“We focused on reducing expenditures that we didn’t think the city was going to spend during the shelter-in-place, and you’ll see we have reductions in travel and training, which we’re just not going to do,” Olson said.

Should staff find the revenue estimates to be incorrect, Olson reported the city could turn to an $8 million backup plan consisting of $2 million in estimated attrition savings, $1.8 million in general fund contingency and $5 million in rainy day funds. An additional backup plan, though Olson didn’t think they would need it, consisted of $19.3 million — $6.3 million in general fund reserves and $13 million the city could draw from the Section 115 Trust Fund.

Fialho further noted the attrition savings to be conservative, given the soft hiring freeze the city implemented during the shelter-in-place, which will result in more savings.

“Our conservative fiscal policies really helped us weather the COVID crisis,” said Vice Mayor Kathy Narum, adding that she suspected most residents wouldn’t notice the budget cuts.

Narum then moved to accept the mid-year budget, which passed unanimously.