Avalos finds $38M in budget to counter mayor’s hit to free CCSF

Mayor Ed Lee announced his rebalanced budget last week, but today Supervisor John Avalos will counter with another way to balance the budget.

The difference is a big one.

The mayor only partially funded free tuition at City College of San Francisco whereas Avalos’ proposal fully funds it.

SEE RELATED: Mayor to defy board support for funding tuition-free CCSF

The mayor’s plan uses voter-approved Proposition W tax revenues to partially replace the lost sales tax revenues after voters rejected a sales tax hike in November. That sales tax revenue was assumed in the budget to pay for homeless and transit services.

But Prop. W, a tax hike on the sale of high-end properties, was placed on the ballot by Supervisor Jane Kim to realize a long fought for plan of making CCSF tuition free.

Today, the Board of Supervisors will vote on a proposal from Kim to give $9 million of Prop. W revenue to CCSF this fiscal year to start free tuition beginning in August 2017.

But the mayor has said he simply won’t spend the money, and as mayor he has that power. The board appropriates, the mayor spends.

Instead, the mayor’s budget plan only provides CCSF with $500,000 this fiscal year and $4.25 million in each of the subsequent fiscal years, not the estimated $13 million annually needed to make free CCSF a reality.

Avalos’ proposal, however, avoids the financial either-or debates underway at City Hall.

The mayor, who said he was most concerned about the loss of planned homeless services, announced last week he would use Prop. W revenue to partially fund the assumed $12 million in sales tax funded homeless services for the current fiscal to the tune of $6.5 million, and $20 million next fiscal year. The sales tax hike would have brought in $50 million annually for homeless services.

Avalos’ funding plan provides the same amount funding for homeless services as the mayor’s plan, while leaving Prop. W revenues alone for their previously board-stated purpose, tuition-free CCSF and street tree maintenance.

Avalos crafted the plan with the assistance of the City Controller’s Office and the Budget Analyst.

“The City’s general fund departments often spend less in salaries and fringe benefits than budgeted in the fiscal year,” reads the Dec. 2 budget analyst memo to Avalos.

“The Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates that up to $36.5 million in general fund salary and fringe benefit expenditures may be available for re-allocation to other uses in FY 2016-17. Reallocating these general fund salary and fringe benefit expenditures will require the city departments to delay hiring or not hire less essential positions.”

Avalos’ proposal would reallocate these budgeted salaries across 16 city departments, the largest amount some $25 million from the Department of Public Health. Additionally, he would incorporate a previous budget analyst recommendation to reduce the Police Department’s overtime budget by $1.7 million. That brings the grand total to $38 million.

From this pot of funding, the proposal allocates $6.5 million in the current year and $20 million in the next for homeless services, mirroring the mayor’s amounts, with the remainder for other uses like legal defense for undocumented immigrants, which the mayor also plans to fund with Prop. W.

Avalos is expected to introduce the proposal at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, as the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.

Since this is Avalos’ final board meeting before being termed out of office next month, he won’t be around to vote on it, but the board could still use the proposal to counter the mayor’s budget plan.

Avalos is more than familiar with city budgets, having served as chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee in 2009 and 2010.

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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