The end of March is still the target date for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to deliver her budget proposal to the City Council and the community.

Quan said that although she remains on schedule, she wants people to understand that her budget plan will be more about creating “options” than presenting a finalize budget to Oakland.

“It’s not going to be the final (budget), it’s going to be, ‘This looks like what the budget  really is on our income, this looks like the ways we can probably balance the budget,'” Quan said at her weekly media briefing on Thursday. “The key thing is to come in with enough options for the Council so that together we can balance the budget.”

During this budget season, Quan said she would like to schedule a retreat with city Council members.

“We’ll have broad discussion to sort of get preliminary understanding and direction from the Council,” she said.

The mayor said she thought it was important to deliver her budget proposal a few months earlier than the traditional time in late spring, “to give Council more time to think about it and then also give the community more time to weigh in.” She added that part of the budget process means looking beyond projections, crunching numbers, and watching tax receipts.

“You think you’re going to get this revenue and you don’t. You think revenue is going to be at this level and (then) it’s up … so we’re just trying to figure out whether we’re going to make quarterly projections this year, so far we’re right on target,” Quan said. “No more deficits.”

In addition to looking at numbers, Quan also sat down with top-level City Hall staff.

“We’ve met with all department heads and asked them for the equivalent of a 15 percent cut,” she said. “I’m hoping to have a new city administrator on board for the second round of department meetings and that will be in time to present  to the community and to the Council (the budget) at the end of March.”

Quan said she’s scheduled to interview four finalist in the next week and that she hopes to have a new administrator in place by early-to-mid March.

Going to the ballot box also may be an option for raising funds.

“We’ll try to decide whether or not it’s even worth trying to go to the voters,” Quan said. “Several cities are doing sales tax initiatives up and down the state because of the massive cuts they might have to make.”

Quan said if she does go to the ballot box, she’ll likely look at a “modest” parcel tax proposal for the general fund budget.

After submitting her proposal, Quan will hold a series of community budget discussions so that Oaklanders can weigh in on the process.

Being Oakland’s chief executive has given Quan new insight into the budget process.

“Some people are overly optimistic, some of the budget people were overly optimistic or didn’t register all of the deficits that we have,” Quan said. “What I’m really trying to get is clear cut, no nonsense this is all of the debts this is all of the costs. I’m trying to get as accurate (a picture) as possible.”

In developing a budget, Quan will have her work cut out for her. Like many cities in California and across the nation, Oakland is being slammed by costs connected to debt and pension problems.

Besides facing a $42 million budget deficit, Oakland still must grapple with declining revenue, and  increasing debt, like the old police and fire pension retirement system, which will cost the city $45.6 million at the beginning of the new fiscal year in July.