This year’s city of Sacramento budget creates big problems for future years

The city of Sacramento must be listening to a lot of Rae Sremmurd and Nicki Minaj, because leaders are definitely in “Throw Sum Mo” mode when it comes to this year’s budget.

The next fiscal-year’s spending plan, which city council approved this past Tuesday, calls for nearly $7 million more in expenditures than the city manager suggested. That’s not a big deal; it’s the kind of spending—on unfunded long-term obligations, on the mayor’s staff—that might potentially leave the city with historic deficits.

Let’s fast-forward a few years, to 2019. Based on this year’s budget, the city will be in a $35 million hole in 2019.

This is not to mention that, in 2019, the city’s yearly contribution to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System is forecasted to go up at least $15 million. Add that to the tab.

And let’s not forget the new Kings arena. The city’s bond payments are scheduled to bump up to $17 million a year in 2019, according to the term sheet. Add that to the bill.

In case you need help with the math: That’s at least a $77 million deficit by year 2019.

SN&R is concerned by the majority of council’s decision to use Measure U sales tax monies, a temporary revenue source that eventually expires, for long-term obligations.

Last week, the city’s budget committee figured out some trickery to avoid deficits in the next few years. But by pushing all of the deficit to 2019—by paying for things like new police officers, firefighters and parks workers with Measure U revenue—politicians are just doing what they do best: kicking the can down the road.

Another contentious bit of spending is adding 70 percent to Mayor Kevin Johnson’s payroll. The five new positions amount to just $700,000 in spending; that’s a very small piece of the pie. Yet it is disconcerting that, on the heels of Measure L’s “strong mayor” defeat, the council would vote to end-run the will of the voters and expand the mayor’s powers.

Equally concerning are reports, in this paper by Cosmo Garvin and on website, that Johnson continues to use public employees and resources for his private endeavors, such as work with the National Basketball Players Association and fundraising for his private groups and nonprofits.

Despite all this, the new budget passed with a 6-3 vote, Council members Eric Guerra, Jeff Harris and Steve Hansen were the nays. We’d like to thank those three leaders for showing at least some consideration for the city’s fiscal house in the long game. These three were left off the city budget committee, so it’s crucial that they speak out even though they have limited say on the matter.

As for the rest of our leaders at City Hall: See you in 2019.