San Francisco legislators reached an agreement over The City’s proposed budget Friday after three long days of negotiations, but funding could be in jeopardy due to a heated debate involving the homeless.
The deal between Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors results in investing nearly $34 million in services for the homeless, public safety efforts and youth programs beyond what the mayor had initially proposed.
The board’s Budget and Finance Committee spent the past two weeks cutting the mayor’s $9.6 billion budget proposal, and began negotiating how to “add-back” the money Wednesday. A final deal was reached at around 3 p.m. Friday. The committee also allocated $26 million in the second year of the budget.
But the budget debate is still far from over.
In an unusual move, the budget assumes revenue from a sales tax hike expected to go before voters in November that would then be used to fund transit and homeless services. That would bring in some $100 million annually for transit and $50 million annually for homeless services.
That proposal, however, could be in peril.
Supervisor John Avalos said Friday he won’t support the sales tax measure for homeless services unless Supervisor Mark Farrell pulls his “vile political measure” that would prohibit tent encampments in public spaces and authorize The City to remove them within 24 hours.
The measure requires The City to offer housing or shelter before removing an encampment, but critics say there aren’t enough resources to accommodate the thousands of people who are living on the streets.
That controversial measure was placed last Tuesday on the November ballot by Farrell with the support of supervisors Scott Wiener, Katy Tang and Malia Cohen.
“Farrell, Wiener, Tang, Cohen and the mayor have to ask themselves if they are willing to forgo revenue for homelessness so they can put a vile political measure on the ballot targeting homeless people living in tents, with nowhere else to go, as campaign fodder,” Avalos wrote in a text message to the San Francisco Examiner.
Avalos’ support could be vital since it would take eight of the 11 board members to place the sales tax measure on the November ballot.
But Farrell on Friday remained steadfast in support of his encampment measure.
“If Supervisor Avalos wants his legacy around our homeless crisis to be voting against an additional $1.25 billion in spending to help our homeless get off the street over the next 25 years, that’s his decision to make,” Farrell said.
Avalos, however, argued, “Now’s the time to see how the resources the mayor has put in place to fight homelessness work, not expand the police to crackdown on people living in tents.”
Meanwhile, Avalos said Friday that he “absolutely” will attempt to amend the budget to place on reserve a portion of the Police Department’s budget that would be released upon the condition that reforms around use of force have been put in place. The Police Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved use of force reforms, which still need to go through union negotiations.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin didn’t rule out other possible amendments to the budget. “There may be a few more twists and turns,” Peskin said. “We’ll see what the next few weeks bring us.”