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City Launches Budget Challenge on Website

Gearing up for a potential ballot measure to increase local taxes, the City of Alameda launched its “Budget Challenge” tool today.

The City of Alameda has been hinting at new local taxes since last summer, and announced the “Budget Challenge” interactive tool last week.

Alameda City Budget Challenge

“Alameda is facing ongoing budget deficits,” the tool warns, “your challenge is to set the priorities for the year and create a budget that reflects your values and vision for Alameda’s future.”

On the spending side, the tool forces the user to choose between budget reductions from the fire department, police department, general government administration, parks and recreation, libraries, public works or capital projects; budget increases are achieved by “taking funds from other departments.”

For revenue, the options are to fiddle with the local sales tax rate, the local utility user tax, or the transient occupancy tax. All revenue categories begin with the phrase, “Should the City submit a ballot measure seeking voter approval to increase…” the tax. According to the City of Alameda, increasing the utility user tax by 0.5% to include other utilities like wireless and Internet access would raise $900,000 for the budget. Armchair finance managers have the option to leave the tax rates alone, but a balanced budget would require cuts on the spending categories.

In the end, the user gets to compare his or her budget manipulation with a projected $4.4 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

Users are also invited to give feedback to the City of Alameda on the exercise.

The budget challenge is available online here.

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