After Warriors lost appeal over arena debt, Oakland wants its $10 million back

Peninsula Premier Admin

OAKLAND — It’s not going to solve the city’s $62 million budget shortfall, but a $10 million payment Oakland is to receive from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority for Oracle Arena renovations should at least put a dent in it.

The California Supreme Court in December cleared the way for that payment when it rejected the Warriors’ appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the team owes Oakland and Alameda County millions in debt for the work. Oakland and Alameda County each are slated to get $10 million back.

The City Council’s Finance Committee recommended Monday that the full council approve a resolution Feb. 2 to accept the money, which has been sitting in a reserve fund pending the court ruling. The Coliseum Authority next would have to vote to release the funds to Oakland and Alameda County.

How that money is allocated has yet to be decided, council members said Monday, but in a press release issued last week, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan called the $10 million “critical in closing the budget shortfall.”

Meanwhile, city officials have agreed to modify a controversial plan to temporarily reduce fire services — part of an effort to cut expenditures citywide.

After discussions between the city administration and the firefighters’ union, the city now plans to deactivate one fire station at a time instead of the proposed three, Oakland Fire Department spokesman Michael Hunt confirmed.

For six days at a time, one of Oakland’s 25 fire stations — which each have one engine — will temporarily close as its turn in a rotation comes up, saving a total of $1 million.

An earlier plan called for closing three stations at a time from January through June to save about $5 million, but that drew sharp criticism from residents and firefighters who pointed to several years of catastrophic wildfires that have swept the state.

Closing the three companies would have diverted about 14 calls per day to other stations, and an estimated 11 of those calls could result in failure to meet nationally accepted response time standards, a city memo from December states.

“This is dire and painful to have been even approached to contemplate the impact,” Oakland Fire Chief Melinda Drayton told the council in December.

Despite the Warriors’ payout and fire station savings, finance committee members noted during Monday’s meeting that police overtime expenses and a pandemic-induced loss of tax revenue have accounted for much of the budget shortfall..

While City Administrator Ed Reiskin has already directed $29 million in cuts, including deferring pay raises for non-union employees, laying off part-time and temporary employees, reducing overtime for police and firefighters and enacting a hiring freeze, the remaining deficit is still about $33.3 million, according to city documents.

At its next meeting in March, the committee intends to discuss other potential moves to trim the budget, including a resolution by Councilmember Dan Kalb to waive the council members’ car allowances by 95% and a resolution by Councilmember Loren Taylor to cut the equivalent of 10 days’ of council members’ annual pay.

The salaries — currently about $97,000 — are set by the Public Ethics Commission and have in the past been increased based on cost-of-living indices.

While council members individually can to waive or reduce their pay or car allowances, Kalb’s resolution would have them do so collectively —  and soon. Waiting until at least March to trim their salaries and waive car allowances would look bad, Kalb said.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Auditor Courtney Ruby both elected to waive 10 unpaid days’ worth of salary and their entire car allowances, according to city documents.

The finance committee nevertheless postponed action on those resolutions to its March 8 meeting.

Contributed by local news sources

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