Sacramento has a plan to address $66 million deficit. Here’s where you could pay more

To address a looming $66 million deficit, Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan is proposing the city hike fees for parking meters and parking garages.

Chan released his $1.6 billion proposed budget Tuesday which included a variety of proposed fee hikes and service cuts but avoids employee layoffs and homeless shelter closures.

“It has always been my goal to balance the budget by making strategic decisions instead of across-the-board cuts and to minimize — to the greatest extent possible — any impacts to core city service and city employees,” Chan said in a city blog post Tuesday. “I would like to thank the city’s finance team and city departmental staff for their tireless work in identifying and evaluating potential revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions. In my eight years as city manager, this has been by far the most dynamic budget to develop.”

In addition to the parking meter increases, if the council approves the budget, the city would start charging for electric vehicle charging in its garages. It would also add 300 new on-street parking meters to so-called “high impact areas.”

Since Chan became city manager in 2017, he has not had to make significant cuts or layoffs, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s last large round of cuts was following the Great Recession. But with the pandemic moving many state workers out of downtown office buildings, parking revenue is down, and the city is struggling to pay for Golden One Center and homeless shelters, as well as employee pensions.

The budget would also increase fees for several Youth, Parks and Community Enrichment programs. It would increase fees for sports field rentals, swim programs, covered picnic park areas, and room rentals at community centers. It would also start charging a fee for senior special events between $5 and $10.

In the Public Works Department, it would increase the amount homeowners pay for sidewalk repairs, which already currently can top $20,000.

The proposed budget would also eliminate a program that lets kids in kindergarten through high school ride Regional Transit for free, funded by the Measure U sales tax increase approved in 2018, saving $1 million.

The budget also would eliminate 44 vacant full-time positions, the blog post states. The strategies to address half the $66 million deficit are so-called “one time” strategies meaning they will need to addressed again the following fiscal year.

Several of the vacant positions removed would be from the police department. However the police department budget would continue to grow, going from about $222 million in the current fiscal year to an all-time-high of about $250 million.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he broadly supports the budget.

“The city manager’s proposed budget is the product of months of challenging internal discussions and public workshops,” Steinberg, whose term ends in December, said in a statement Tuesday. “It represents a good start. His proposal avoids layoffs and major service cuts. The council will now consider all the options and trade offs with a commitment to delivering a timely and balanced city budget.”

Public hearings will be held throughout May for residents to weigh in on the budget. The council’s Budget and Audit Committee will discuss the budget May 7, and the council is set to approve it June 11, though those dates could change. The new budget will take effect July 1.