If we learned anything at last night’s budget hearing, it’s that libraries are a uniting force. No matter how bitterly people may disagree with each other on other topics, everyone will say they love libraries and wish there was one on every block (as opposed to four in a city of 300,000 residents).
The shuttered Fair Oaks Library in east Stockton was the focal point of discussion at last night’s opening budget hearing. Tonight, the council could decide it wants the city to spend the money to reopen Fair Oaks, which was shut down in 2010. Or it might not. Or it might do something in between. Or maybe it’ll do nothing at all for the moment.
City Manager Kurt Wilson has made it clear for now that he does not believe reopening Fair Oaks is something Stockton, barely three months out of bankruptcy, can afford at the moment.
“I do think it makes a lot of sense to go forward (with Fair Oaks) because the cause is worthy,” Wilson said last night. “Nothing would make me happier than to say, ‘Just do it.’ But that is exactly the type of poor planning that got us in trouble in the first place. Does that make me the bad guy? Maybe. But better that than going back toward bankruptcy. My recommendation will not be to do anything reckless.”
As with last night, department heads will give reports on their 2015-16 budget plans. The schedule: economic development, municipal utilities, public works, charter offices (city manager, clerk and attorney) and police.
There were a few police use-of-force activists on hand at last night’s meeting. They may be back tonight. The city’s proposed general fund includes $105 million in police spending in 2015-16 — 53 percent of the total budget of $199 million. The fire department checks in next at $40 million, another 20 percent. No other department receives more than 9 percent.
Nothing is finalized tonight. In fact, if they don’t make it through all the items tonight, there could be a third hearing tomorrow evening. Regardless, a council vote on the final budget won’t come until next month, June 9 at the earliest.