In a stunning announcement yesterday, the City of Burlingame proposed sweeping cuts in its public safety sector, a library closure, and slashing all department budgets as it wrestles to close a significant budget deficit. It’s estimated that these cuts will save the City approximately $2.4M in the current fiscal year, which ends in June, and another $4.4M in the coming fiscal year according to this article in the San Mateo County Times. The public safety cuts call for police department layoffs, and the closure of one of Burlingame’s fire stations. Hmmmm.
Deja Vu? Almost…
Wow. You could just about substitute “San Carlos” for “Burlingame” in this article, and you wouldn’t miss the mark by much. In some ways, that’s not a surprise because the cities are so similar in many ways — geography, demographics, and even their downtown shopping areas. Many home buyers often mention the two cities in the same breath when they talk about desirable communities to live in.
Here are some of the cuts that are being proposed by Burlingame. Note how eerily similar they are to what San Carlos is currently contemplating:
- Close the Easton Branch library
- Close Fire Station 36 on Rollins Road, lay off 3 firefighters.
- Reduce police force from 29 to 25 sworn officers through layoffs and attrition.
- Staff cuts in Public Works, Park and Recreation Departments.
There is one area were the two cities seem to differ in their proposed budget cuts…
City Hall Feels the Pain.
The budget knife that will cut through Burlingame will not bypass City Hall. In one of the more interesting twists, the proposal calls for a 12% reduction in pay to City Manager Jim Nantell, and a 10% cut in City Council pay. This is interesting because Nantell, along with Finance Director Jesus Nava, were the ones who unveiled this plan in the first place.
With the current San Carlos City Council stipend of $300/month, cutting 10% out of our City Council pay would barely buy lunch in downtown San Carlos, let alone solve our budget crisis. And frankly speaking, for the amount of time and effort involved being a Council Member, they are severely underpaid anyway. It’s worth noting that Councilman Andy Klein has already volunteered to return his entire stipend just to help the cause.
Some will give all, all will give some…
In reality, City Manager Jim Nantell’s $4,310 pay cut is also a “drop in the bucket” in the big picture of Burlingame’s budget woes (although it’s probably a pretty big deal to him, understandably.) After all, it comes out to a whopping 0.098% of the overall budget cut. But the symbolism here is huge, and is something that will not be overlooked by residents of San Carlos since it’s an area where the two cities seem to differ in their approach to solving a common problem.
Unless I am mistaken (and I’d be happy to print a correction to this assumption) none of the cuts that are being proposed by San Carlos affect the payroll of the City Manager nor his direct staff. The perception of many San Carlos residents is that City Hall is coming out of this painful exercise completely unscathed, while in Burlingame at least everyone is giving something to the cause. Or in other words, they’re ALL putting a few drops in that bucket.
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