In April, I wrote a letter to the San Leandro Times stating that our schools and city were facing an unprecedented budget crisis and they should work together to address their fiscal challenges. I asked that the city not make any budget cuts that would hurt our schools. In particular, I called for the mayor and city council to reject the city manager’s proposal to terminate all school crossing guards.
As we know, the mayor and city council proceeded to end the program. Why would the mayor and city council risk the safety of children and their parents? Why is there not a true partnership between our city and schools?
City officials claim the cuts were necessary because the city has a large deficit. That is essentially what San Leandro City Manager Steve Hollister stated to CBS 5 local news when questioned on the elimination of the program. Likewise, the San Leandro Times reported that Mayor Tony Santos says that there simply is no room in the budget for the crossing guard program: "We just don’t have the money to fund it."
It's true that the city budget is seriously out of balance. City officials are amassing millions in red ink, burning through reserves, and placing the fiscal solvency of the city in jeopardy. Yet, remarkably, despite eliminating crossing guards, cutting six police officer positions, and reducing funding for senior services, libraries and pools, the city is spending more this fiscal year than last year.
Yes, you read that right. Last year the city spent $77 million. This year’s budget calls for $78 million in spending. There is no fiscal discipline at city hall.
The adoption of the city budget is the result of series of political decisions by the mayor and city council based upon the priorities and values held by our elected officials. If the mayor and city council prioritized the safety of children, they could have kept school crossing guards. The program represented only 1/8th of one percent of the city’s general fund.
Other cuts could have made. Cancelling free health club memberships for city managers would have been a good place to have started. The mayor and city council should promptly bring back the crossing guards.