This year I am once again serving as chair of our Budget and Finance Committee at the Board of Supervisors. Our budget process is long and complicated, but for the second year in a row, we passed the budget unanimously at the Board, and it was signed by Mayor Ed Lee.
As with last year, my goal during budget season was to develop consensus among my colleagues for a comprehensive budget we could all support. This year not only am I continuing to serve as chair of the committee, but my other committee members remained the same since last year, so we had a relatively knowledgeable group heading into budget season including supervisors Mar, Avalos, Breed, and Wiener.
Heading into this year’s budget season, despite the growing local economy and a number of other structural financial measures we put into place over the past few years, we still faced a budget deficit of approximately $66 million. Though it was small compared to an approximately $585 million deficit we faced during my first year in office in 2011, we were still forced to make difficult decisions.
The mayor’s total proposed budget for FY 2014–2015 and FY 2015–2016 was $8.6 billion for each year. The proposal closed budget deficits of $66.7 million in FY 2014–15 and $133.4 million in FY 2015–16. The mayor focused on addressing economic conditions and in particular the lack of affordable housing. To meet this need, Mayor Lee included $94 million in additional new funding to expedite affordable housing projects, including $2 million to support rehabilitation of vacant units at the Housing Authority, for which a number of us were pushing; these units can be renovated quickly and have the ability to provide affordable housing immediately for San Francisco residents.
Other highlights include investments in our public infrastructure to make San Francisco more livable, including fully funding our street repaving program, which will repave 1,700 blocks. Mayor Lee also included a 10 percent service increase in Muni to address crowding and reliability. Investments to our urban environment were also included, with a new street-cleaning crew and an arborist apprenticeship program in the Department of Public Works, as well as additional park patrol staff and urban forestry maintenance crew within the Recreation and Park Department.
Thankfully the mayor’s proposal continued to fund the city’s six-year public safety hiring plan to train the next generation of public safety officers and personnel. When I first came to City Hall, the Board of Supervisors had failed to fund public safety to levels required by our city charter, but since I have been in office, we have turned that around. Over the next two fiscal years, we will hire 300 new police officers, 96 firefighters, 30 paramedics, and 10 911 dispatchers to enhance community safety.
Our expanded Budget and Finance Committee started meeting weekly back in March to develop an overview of our budget, financial trends from our local economy and tax projections, as well as budget updates from our large city departments. The meat of our work took place, as always, during the last two weeks of June, where each day of the week our committee held hearings in which city departments presented their budgets. These two weeks of hearings involved a critical, birds-eye view of every line item in the mayor’s proposed budget to find savings and reallocate funds to priorities not addressed in that budget. This gave each supervisor the opportunity to make certain that both district and citywide needs were addressed. Ultimately, I was extremely pleased that we were able to come to a consensus budget and pass the FY 2014–15 and FY 2015–16 budget unanimously out of committee to the full board.
This year the Budget & Finance Committee found more than $40 million in savings, with more than $23 million for the first year and more than $18 million for the second. With these savings, we funded a number of key priorities through the city and across various neighborhoods. Highlights include:
• $3 million in increased funds for homeless services, including shallow rental subsidies and homeless prevention efforts
• $2 million in increased funds for food security, in particular meals for low-income seniors
• Increased funds for pedestrian safety efforts throughout San Francisco (labeled “Vision Zero”)
• Significantly increased capacity for our park patrol officers
• Increased funds for the SFFD arson investigation team
• Increase in funds for crucial cleaning and maintenance services throughout the city
• Invest in youth and senior specific services
We passed the budget unanimously out of committee just past midnight on June 27 (the earliest in recent history), and the full Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the budget at our July 15 and July 22 meetings. Mayor Lee officially signed the budget the next day.
My priorities for this year’s budget continued to resonate similar themes as last year: prioritize fiscal responsibility to protect our city during the next downturn, fund essential city services such as public safety, and promote quality of life infrastructure projects throughout the neighborhoods of San Francisco, such as parks and road repaving. I am proud that after this budget season, we have now more than doubled our financial reserves since I first came into office, and with the mayor’s support we have funded a significant number of my priorities citywide and within District 2 in particular.
Within District 2, I strongly advocated for a number of park projects and secured funds for much needed improvements at Alta Plaza Park and Mountain Lake Park playground. I also worked to secure adequate funding to move the Francisco Reservoir Park project forward. In addition, I have heard loud and clear from my constituents about the need for traffic and pedestrian improvements, and I secured over $100,000 for stop signs, speed bumps, and other pedestrian safety measures to improve the quality of our roads and safety of our citizens. Other priorities include funds for additional cleaning in our commercial corridors every Sunday and funds for family services and community building efforts within our District 2 neighborhoods.