Supervisor's Report

San Francisco’s city budget: Balanced, growing, and responsible

Muni’s budget increases 10 percent to address reliability and crowding. photo: mobilus in mobili / flickr

Our city budget serves as a reflection of our shared priorities and values. As chair of our city’s Budget and Finance Committee for the past three years, I have led and continue to lead our budget discussions with my colleagues at the Board of Supervisors and the broader public to ensure those priorities and values are met. In that role, it has been and is my responsibility to fight for issues that matter to District Two and the city as a whole. The budget for the city for fiscal years 2015-16 and fiscal years 2016-17 is $8.92 billion and $8.96 billion, respectively.

Due to a thriving local economy, we have seen approximately a billion dollars worth of growth since our budget last year, which was $7.9 billion dollars. Without a doubt, it’s a massive city budget, and there are many reasons why it is so large for a city our size. Since San Francisco is both a city and county, we are required to provide many additional services not typical for a city our size, including running two public hospitals, our airport, our port, and our own utilities.

Because of our growing and booming local economy, we have not had to make any cuts to our current levels of services. Further, we have been able to make strategic investments in programs and services to ensure that San Francisco remains safe and livable, and save record amounts in our city reserves to protect against the next economic downturn.

I am mindful that just because we have more resources that it does not mean we can go on a spending spree as a city. We must continue to remain frugal and direct our attention to our city’s more pressing needs while continuing to fight for basic quality of life needs that include public safety, cleaner streets, support for small businesses, and much more.

The proposed two-year city budget that is now in front of the full Board of Supervisors seeks to do both. Public safety is a top priority for District Two and residents citywide, and the proposed budget will add 400 new police officers, 198 firefighters, 55 paramedics, and 36 9-1-1 dispatchers to enhance public safety in every neighborhood across our city. The budget has a 10 percent service increase at Muni to address service reliability and crowding. We are also proposing to repave more than 1,400 blocks over the next two years, and we include increases to the Department of Public Works and the Recreation and Park Department to keep our streets and parks clean and safe.

Our budget also proposes to make strategic investments for the city’s most vulnerable. There are significant new resources for the opening of a new San Francisco General Hospital, 500 new units of supportive housing to help individuals and families exit homelessness, and new funds to further support seniors and people with disabilities.

Most important, the proposed budget balances the need for increased services with the need to ensure long-term financial stability and invest in our city’s infrastructure. As chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, I have specifically fought to increase our city budget reserves to protect against the next economic downturn and strengthen our city’s credit rating. By the end of June 2017, the city will have approximately $300 million across its multiple reserves – which is one of the highest levels saved in the budget reserves in our city’s history. Though San Francisco is in a much better place financially than recent years, we cannot take anything for granted as it relates to our local economy, and we must continue to ensure that our city is fiscally responsible, safe and successful.

As supervisor, I am also fighting to secure additional district-specific budget priorities to address various needs from the savings we found in the Budget Committee. We will invest more for commercial corridor cleanings across the district to further clean our streets, supporting our small businesses, enhancing programs for youth and seniors, making needed park and public space upgrades, providing family-focused programs and activities to encourage a more family-friendly city, as well as crucial transportation and pedestrian safety upgrades.

It has been a rewarding experience over the past couple of months to hear directly from community leaders, business, and labor and nonprofit organizations to discuss priorities and to work to address their concerns. I believe our proposed balanced city budget addresses the appropriate priorities and concerns citywide and in District Two. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass our two-year city budget before the end of July.

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Mark Farrell is District Two supervisor. E-mail or phone 415-554-7752.