San Jose’s City Council is currently reviewing the city’s proposed 2009-2010 budget, which is aimed at closing an $84.2 million deficit in the general fund. The process will continue through next month, and it is anticipated that the budget will be adopted on June 23.
Over the past seven years, the city has admittedly turned to short-term fixes, using one-time dollars to close the budget gap rather than making necessary long-term fixes. Like many Americans, “the City has been living beyond its means,” said San Jose’s City Manager Debra Figone in a message.
This year, however, 97 percent of the budget – all but $2.9 million – will be balanced with ongoing solutions, compared with 86 percent last year.
Like the rest of the country, San Jose is facing an economic downturn spurred largely by falling real estate prices. Property tax makes up about a quarter of the city’s revenue – its largest source – but because of declining home values, property taxes are expected to decline by 7 percent.
Sales taxes, another key source of revenue, are also expected to decrease, by about 5 percent next year.
Figone also made it clear, however, that the city will have to make some sacrifices, the most significant of which will be felt in reduced and eliminated services and jobs.
Among the proposed cuts: downsized fire stations including the elimination of the entire company at the San Jose neighborhood of Auzerais, which employed 13 firefighters. The station will be shuttered this August, resulting in $2.2 million in cost savings for the city.
Police services will also feel the pinch with the city deferring the addition of 25 vacant spots, eliminating nine open positions and getting rid of the horse mounted unit altogether. These three reductions alone would add $4 million towards closing the budget shortfall.
Neighborhood services will also be cut, with the most significant proposed reductions coming from the public library. Branch hours will be decreased by an average of 13 hours, resulting in about 26 positions being eliminated and a cost-savings to the city of $2 million.
Other proposed reductions in this department include the elimination of six community centers, some of which cater to the elderly, and the closing of the Level 1 Homework Center, which served San Jose’s youth population.
Significant reductions will also be made in the city’s transportation department. The airport alone will shed 43 jobs including those in the ground transportation, communications and IT units.
While San Jose’s citizens were largely spared these types of service cutbacks in past years, “The dramatic decline in City revenues has been too severe to continue stretching out ever-diminishing resources,” said Figone.