city budget

Alameda’s City Council held a wide-ranging discussion Tuesday night about how – or if – the city could pay for facilities, vehicles and equipment council members had hoped to fund with money from the Measure C sales tax initiative.

“I have to say that all the issues that were still facing us before we envisioned the campaign for Measure C are still here after the campaign for Measure C, so it’s sort of like a reset,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said at the start of the nearly three-hour hearing.

Some council members said they believe voters would have been willing to support a tax focused on public safety.

In what has become an almost perverse annual ritual, city leaders discussed how they plan to address a projected $5.1 million deficit in next year’s general fund budget and bigger deficits in the years to come.

City staffers on Tuesday outlined a series of cuts that included layoffs and plans to close the city’s jail. City Council members, meanwhile, sparred over the Measure C sales tax proposal, which voters will consider through Election Day on Tuesday.

“We’re going to do less with less,” Councilwoman Lena Tam said.

When city leaders announced plans to contract Alameda’s animal shelter services out to another city to save money, animal lovers here quickly mobilized to stop them. But instead of fighting opponents of the outsourcing plan, the city decided to hand them the Alameda Animal Shelter’s keys.

Sixty-five days later the shelter’s new director, Mim Carlson, said she’s busy managing a staff of nine and training what she hopes will ultimately be more than a hundred volunteers – and finding ways to raise the nonprofit that now runs the shelter’s half of its $600,000 annual budget.

An opponent of a proposed half-cent sales tax increase launched his campaign against the tax Tuesday.

Alameda activist and blogger David Howard said the proposed Measure C sales tax increase that’s due to appear on the June 5 ballot was pushed through without adequate public input.

Alameda’s high school swimming pools are on life support, masters swimmer Barry Parker said, and the city and school district are unlikely to continuing paying to keep them open. But $5 million gleaned from a half-cent sales tax increase could build a new, Olympic-size pool that could be used by high school swimmers, young children and adult swimmers alike, he said.

Voters will go to the polls in June to decide the fate of a half-cent sales tax measure approved by the City Council on Wednesday night.

Should the city support a half-cent sales tax increase for public safety buildings and equipment while it makes cuts in libraries, recreation and other departments?

That’s the question the Alameda City Council must answer before March 7.

City Manager John Russo on Wednesday night outlined a comprehensive plan to replace aging police cars and fire trucks and remodel an earthquake-damaged fire station with funds from a half-cent sales tax increase voters would consider at a special June election.

The measure, if approved by two-thirds of the voters, would raise about $1.8 million annually over 30 years.