3-Minute Interview: Ben Rosenfield

The 34-year-old city controller, who started the job in April after working for The City for 10 years, will discuss The City’s budget at a forum today at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

What does your new job involve? The City Controller’s Office is really the chief financial office in The City. We handle The City’s accounting rules and administration, and we’re charged with auditing city departments.

Does that make you unpopular with other departments? I would hope city departments see our office as a vehicle to help them make difficult choices. We’re not the ones actually making the choices — those are decisions for the mayor and Board of Supervisors — but we’re certainly here to try to help make their jobs a little easier.

How big is your department? About 200 people, with a budget of $29.6 million.

What was your previous job? I was working as the deputy city administrator under Ed Lee for the past three years, and before that I was working as the mayor’s budget director from 2001 through 2005.

How is your department helping to balance the budget? The Mayor’s Office has to submit a balanced budget by June 1 to close the $338 million problem The City’s facing. Our budget shop and myself and my deputy are spending a lot of time chasing budget-savings ideas.

What’s the biggest challenge? We have a budget problem for the coming year, and we’re likely to have a significant budget problem the year after. The state’s budget is not in a good place, and their habit is to pass along cuts to local governments.

For how many years do you expect budget problems? Hopefully two, but who knows?

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