Understanding Your City’s Budget

Learn how you can get the details on Oakland's budget and understand your city's spending. A guest post by our Government Documents Librarian, Kate.

Do you ever wonder where the City of Oakland gets its revenue? Do you want to find out about proposed budget cuts to city services and departments? Are you interested in finding out how much each city department is allocated?

A great place to look is the City budget! Download and read Oakland’s Adopted 2019-2021 Policy Budget

The City’s Budget Bureau generates a Biennial Proposed Budget and an Adopted Budget for Oakland to determine how best to spend its resources for the community. The budget includes allocations for youth programs, services for homeless, funding for various city departments such as parks, transportation, police, fire, libraries, and much more. Every other year, between January and June, the biennial proposed city budget is developed, deliberated, and approved. At the end of June, this proposed midcycle budget must be voted on (as outlined in Oakland’s city charter). Creating a balanced budget is done over three phases. First—Development of a five-year forecast is sent to the City’s Finance Committee and the Mayor addresses community questions and concerns. Second—Deliberation, in this phase a proposed two-year budget is released for review to be considered by City Council. Third—Approval, in June, council will present amendments to the proposed budget for final approval by June 30th.

Oakland’s proposed midcycle budget for 2020-2021 can also be viewed online at the city’s website. The Proposed Midcycle Budget identifies factors that may affect future city revenues, expenditures, and staffing. As cities everywhere face cuts due to reduced revenue stream in the midst of COVID-19, this document provides citizens a chance to view the city’s spending and proposed adjustments. For instance, do you ever wonder where the city gets its money? See below for projected loss revenues:


The largest dips in revenue are projected to be from Business License Tax, and Transient Occupant Tax (TOT), (Oakland’s proposed midcycle budget, pages 13-14). These tables also break out the revenues from other taxes such as Parking Tax, Real Estate Transfer Tax, Sales Tax, etc. Due to the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, Table 4 below outlines a more severe projection of economic

In addition to revenues, city budgets contain lots of valuable information on city demographics and economics, as well as statistics and surveys. These reports contain information on capital improvements, service impacts, taxes, measures and bonds, allocations for employee salaries and pensions, as well as, hiring and staffing changes. The city budget also outlines individual department goals, services, and spending.

 Below is a breakdown of all funds by department:

Interested in local politics and want to understand more about your city’s spending? Local government documents are an excellent resource. As a designated Federal Depository Library for US Government Documents, the Oakland Public Library houses a collection of State, Federal and local government documents, including past and current city budgets.  If you’d like to know more about our government documents collection, please check our catalog for recent added items and online resources. Have a reference question? Email eAnswers@oaklandlibrary.org. Current city budget documents are made available online through the city’s Budget Bureau.

For questions or concerns regarding city spending and the budget contact Mayor Schaaf, officeofthemayor@oaklandnet.com or your City Council member