2023-24 City Budget: Spending Accelerating at a Record Pace

Record Budget Includes New Perks for City Council Members 

Since 2016, the city budget has been growing at an unprecedented rate. Spending was flat from 2010 to 2016, and then increased by 25% between 2016 and 2020. With a projected budget of $593 million in 2022, the growth in the rate of spending continues to increase. This growth in spending is well above the state average of 19% over the same period. This draft WOM Berkeley white paper allows you to compare our numbers to neighboring cities.

Spending increased 25% between 2016 and 2020 (last year figures are available) according to the State Controllers Office. During the same period the state average was 19%.

We already pay the most, and city residents are feeling the effects of the worst economic downturn in over a decade. Soaring inflation combined with steep declines in retirement and college savings accounts are causing residents to cut back. Yet City Council is on a record setting spending pace. Its 2023 budget includes new perks like $1.2 million (item 10) to grow their personal staff. There is another $25,000 for new bicycles. These new perks come on heels of a 75% pay raise for the mayor and council. 

Were it not for the economic squeeze being felt by residents, some of these measures may seem reasonable, but remember, Berkeley City Council wants you to approve an additional $600 million in new spending (above and beyond the record 2023 figure) this November to be financed by residents.

With their prodigious growth in spending, City Council seems to be living in another world, or at least one that defies economic reality and the lived experience of residents.