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Newsom earmarks surplus funds
for youth services

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

May 25, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - School officials, city leaders, nonprofit organizations and high school students gathered yesterday as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pledged millions for programs aimed at helping young people.

The announcement was a relief for many as $100 million-plus budget deficits over the last three years have left the city's school and childcare systems with little room for improvement.

"We were not in a position to make the kind of investment that we will be announcing yesterday in regards to our youth and children," Newsom told a cheering audience at Ida B. Wells High School in the Western Addition "This year, in spite of a projected budget deficit of $12 million, we will be in a position to invest $34.8 million."

Newsom had been working with many of the individuals and organizations present at yesterday's announcement on divvying up the extra money, generated from a surplus of tax revenue. A majority of the funds will go to building affordable housing for families if approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Another chunk of money, $3.3 million, would go toward an ambitious plan to provide preschool and childcare services to all of San Francisco's homeless children. The city's homeless families would also benefit from increased funding for rental subsidies and eviction protection.

Other programs Newsom focused on are language immersion classes, student-loan repayment for San Francisco teachers, health and fitness seminars, foster care, wellness centers, after school programs, violence prevention and programs designed to help troubled youths transition into adulthood through job opportunities.

The mayor also earmarked some money for a new public school that would specialize in science and technology, and many of the 50 or so students in attendance cracked nervous smiles when Newsom mentioned increased efforts in truancy prevention.

The proposed budget will go before the Board of Supervisors on June 1. Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Ross Mirkarimi were also on hand to support the mayor's focus on family, youth and children's services.

Mirkarimi, who supervises the Western Addition, said he was pleased with the budget and he strongly believed in a plan that puts children first.

"We can do more and do better," Newsom said. "The board will tweak my budget, and that's OK."

San Francisco Unified School District Interim Superintendent Gwen Chan said she was still in a state of shock over the news, and Margaret Brodkin, the director of the mayor's Department of Children, Youth and Families, said this "was the thrill of a lifetime.''

The mayor's office also plans to "invest" $580,000 toward programs like the Family Ambassadors Project, which connects families in need with the various outreach programs throughout the city. Project Manager Ellen Rodgers said the mayor's concentration on youth and children will help make San Francisco a family-friendly city.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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