February 24, 2024

OAKLAND — Simply earlier than the pandemic helped plunge the town into monetary disaster, Oakland voters did what they normally do on the poll field: approve a brand new tax, this one meant to keep up and enhance the town’s numerous parks.

Three years later, the tax has gathered tens of millions of {dollars}, however a brand new audit finds the town additionally underspends the income annually — accumulating about $22 million in rolled-over stability at a time when fire-safety advocates describe Oakland’s parks as missing upkeep and being at excessive threat for wildfires.

The audit, revealed final week, discovered that it’s additionally unclear if the cash is being spent successfully, on condition that the town doesn’t take a “data-driven technique” with clear baseline objectives for what good park upkeep seems like.

It presents a glance into how certainly one of Oakland’s numerous tax measures — that are nearly all the time authorised by a big majority of voters — is definitely performing amid a historic monetary deficit that has left the town reeling.

Whereas the tax income was meant to “lower disparities in life outcomes of marginalized communities, handle homelessness in and across the metropolis parks and enhance water high quality by lowering litter, we discovered that the Metropolis didn’t have abaseline to evaluate the effectiveness” of reaching these objectives, the audit states.

Metropolis officers didn’t reply to a request for remark, however are anticipated to submit a written response to the audit’s suggestions. The report was compiled by Michael Houston, who stepped in because the appearing metropolis auditor after the final full-time auditor, Courtney Ruby, left her publish in September.

A lot of the underspending happened through the 2020-21 fiscal yr, when the Public Works division had a “exhausting time filling new employees positions,” the audit discovered, ending up with simply two out of 36 budged positions stuffed.

By the tip of the subsequent yr, there have been solely 12 vacancies out of 39 positions, however the metropolis has nonetheless continued to underspend income from the tax, generally known as Measure Q, which obtained 68% voter approval on the March 2020 election poll.