By Luke Thomas
June 2, 2011
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee yesterday presented his $6.83 billion proposed budget for the next fiscal year, balanced by closing a $306 million deficit.
“This proposed balanced budget is about building a foundation to keep San Francisco moving in the right direction and keeping our City safe, solvent and successful,” Lee said. “While our budget and economy are beginning to rebound, this budget includes a number of difficult decisions and sacrifices. We are not expanding programs—we are scaling back and fighting to keep services stable. We cannot forget that we are asking for real sacrifices from our City employees and their families to restore stability to the budget, and once again they have stepped up to help their city.”
Though some layoffs are to be expected, the budget was balanced without the need for “massive” layoffs, Lee said. Police and firefighters will not be subject to any layoffs.
To help balance the budget, Lee’s proposed budget includes $106 million in reductions to city departments, including $32 million from the Department of Public Health, $26 million in salary increase deferrals and $14 million in cuts to Human Services.
“The good news is our City is growing: the economy is beginning to recover, the population is growing and unemployment is down from over 10 percent last January to 8.5 percent today,” Lee said. “It is critical that we put forth a balanced, responsible budget that can help us capitalize on these trends now and in the years to come.”
Despite a more positive economic outlook, the City will continue to face budget deficits in upcoming years unless pension reforms are enacted to correct a structural imbalance between revenues and ballooning employee pension costs. Two competing pension reform measures to correct the imbalance are currently being considered for placement on the November ballot.
In anticipation of State funding cuts, Lee said he will propose a half-percent sales tax extension which is projected to raise as much as $30 million per year.
“It would only take effect if the sales reduction goes through and the state tax is unable to be extended,” Lee said. “This is a safety valve. It is one that will protect core city services against the uncertainty in Sacramento.”
Local tax measures must be approved by a two-thirds majority of voters.
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim said she appreciated Mayor Lee’s efforts to make the budget process more collaborative and transparent and was hopeful cuts to programs that impact the most vulnerable will be restored during the budget process.
“There are obviously still cuts that we would like to see restored,” Kim said, “but I’m really happy with the first iteration.”
District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell said he generally does not support taxes, “but if we’re protecting to make sure that we don’t have any unintended consequences from a lack of funding from California, and we face a massive budget shortfall unexpectedly, it’s something to consider and I’ll do that.”
The Board of Supervisors will give final approval to the budget at the end of July.