San Francisco school board members on Tuesday declared their support for a ballot measure coming before voters this November that aims to address The City’s homelessness crisis by taxing its largest businesses.
Under Proposition C, the “Our City Our Home” initiative, companies grossing more than $50 million annually would be subjected to a 0.5 percent raise in gross receipts taxes, creating a projected $300 million in revenue to fund homeless services and housing.
At a Board of Education hearing on Tuesday, all but one commissioner voted in favor of a resolution introduced by Commissioner Matt Haney in support of the measure.
“A couple of months ago we passed a resolution formulating a new approach to how we support homeless students, committing our own resources, potentially our own land and being a first responder for families in danger of becoming homeless,” said Haney, who is running for supervisor in District 6. “I hope as a district we don’t just support this measure, but when it passes that we are at the table.”
According to the resolution, 50 percent of the revenue generated annually, or some $150 million, would be directed towards housing, funding the “construction, rehab, prevention and operating subsidies” of some 4,000 units. Half of these funds would be dedicated to housing over 1,000 families and 20 percent would be set aside for housing some 800 youth.
The remaining funds would go toward mental health and substance abuse services, homelessness prevention, and cover the costs of additional shelter beds.
Commissioner Rachel Norton did not participate in the vote, stating that while she supports homeless services, she “would like to see more analysis on the impact” before taking a stance on the tax increase. The measure is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and officials including Mayor London Breed have not yet taken a public position on it.
In the 2015-16 school year, SFUSD identified nearly one in 25 of its students as homeless, counting 937 homeless students in grades K-8, 491 in Middle School, 787 in High School and 168 in Charter schools.
“The fact that we can fill an entire comprehensive high school with the number of our school children who are suffering from insecure housing is shameful,” said Board President Hydra Mendoza McDonnell, adding that the district in recent years has directed funding and resources to allow schools to ramp up their services and outreach to homeless students and their families.
Supporters of the measure, including the formerly homeless and SFSUD educators, attested to a need for additional funding, particularly for the City’s growing number of homeless families, during public comment.
“There are families in shelters, sleeping on a mat in church, with no showers and no caseworkers, sharing a room with 40 other people,” said Sam Lew, policy director with The City’s Coalition on Homelessness. “This is the state our families and our children are living under every single day.”