San Jose's Budget Battle: Homelessness and Policing Amid 2023 Surplus and 2024 Looming Shortfall

San Jose's Budget Battle: Homelessness and Policing Amid 2023 Surplus and 2024 Looming Shortfall
Nina Singh-Hudson
Published on June 07, 2023

San Jose is in the midst of a challenging debate as they finalize their multi-billion dollar budget, sticking to Mayor Matt Mahan's "back-to-basics" approach, prioritizing homelessness, crime, and economic growth, according to The San Jose Spotlight.

In March, Mayor Mahan's first budget draft was approved unanimously, but the process has since hit turbulence with political divisions, staff demands for raises, and a contentious debate over spending on affordable housing.

The city will vote on the budget on June 13, which lays out plans for allocating the whopping $5.2 billion purse for the next fiscal year starting in July. According to The Mercury News, San Jose is currently enjoying a $35.5 million surplus, but a shortfall is anticipated for 2024-2025, as the end of federal stimulus funds and inflation threats loom over the city's budget.

(SJ Gov)

To navigate the potential financial pitfalls, Mayor Mahan is setting aside $18.8 million this year to tackle the possible deficit next year, while also making some tough calls on San Jose's most pressing issues, like homelessness and policing.

Mahan aims to divert Measure E funding previously allocated for affordable housing development to homeless shelters or interim housing. With $137 million in Measure E funds available over the next two years, Mahan proposes to allocate $36 million for approved housing projects and $33.3 million for new affordable housing developments, with the remaining funds dedicated to homelessness solutions and services.

However, this proposal has faced significant opposition from homeless and housing advocates who argue that affordable housing is the better long-term solution to address the city's homelessness crisis at its core. On the policing front, Mahan's proposal calls for an increase in the city's police budget to create 31 new sworn and unsworn roles to address staffing shortages and enhance the department's capacity. In recent years, the city has attempted to tackle the issue through hiring initiatives, bonuses, and higher wages.

However, there remains skepticism about the mayor's decision to boost police funding while shifting resources away from affordable housing. In an interview with The Mercury News, Raj Jayadev from Silicon Valley De-Bug criticized the proposal as "irresponsible" and "dangerous," arguing that the solution to reducing response times is not more police officers, but scaling down the type of calls to which they respond.

Despite the political opposition and economic challenges, Mayor Mahan's budget proposal also encompasses various community-oriented initiatives, such as tree planting, community murals, and youth programs.

The budget aims to address San Jose's core challenges while making preparations for a potential economic downturn. It remains to be seen how these contentious debates will unfold as the city council's vote on the budget approaches next week.