Berkeley Leaders Seeing Nothing but Red

Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz said Monday that his city faces a $14.6 million deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He attributed the budget gap to the economy, declining property and sales tax revenues and  other factors.
At a briefing with reporters, Kamlarz said he's seen many economic ups and downs in his 35 years of working for the city but the recent slowdown is the most serious he's seen.

"Most of the time we come back quickly, but not this time," Kamlarz said.

Kamlarz said Berkeley collected $16 million in transfer tax revenue in fiscal 2008 from the sale of properties, but that amount declined to $8 million last year and will stay at about $8 million this year.

He said another problem in the city's proposed $350 million budget is a $4 million deficit in its refuse collection budget.

Berkeley raised its recollection rates by 20 percent last year but Kamlarz said the city is considering increasing them again to help reduce the deficit.

The city also is considering having only one person on each refuse collection truck as a way of saving money, he said. Currently there are two people on each truck.

He's proposing to cut 67 city positions to help balance the budget, at least half of which are currently vacant. He said he wants to minimize the number of city employees who might be laid off.

Kamlarz and the Berkeley City Council will hold a workshop at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss ways to balance the refuse collection budget.

He presented the City Council with a budget overview on March 9 and will give a more detailed budget report on May 4. The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on June 22.

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