City’s pruning may begin at the top

City employees earning more than $150,000 a year could be jobless by July under a proposal aimed at trimming The City’s projected $338 million budget deficit.

There are 596 city employees earning more than $150,000, according to the City Controller’s Office, spread out in various city departments, including the City Attorney, District Attorney, Public Defender, Muni, Police and Department of Public Health.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said Tuesday that The City has to act as soon as possible to find a solution to its deficit and wants to cut positions starting “at the top.”

Peskin is having legislation drafted that “would eliminate all positions with base salaries over $150,000 that are legally allowable to eliminate.”

“The question is do you cut from the bottom from people who actually are the custodians, the janitors, the recreation supervisors and the gardeners? Or do you cut the supervisors?” Peskin said. “If the supervisors don’t have anyone to manage, that doesn’t make sense.”

If all the positions are eliminated — which is not legally possible because the city charter, adminstrative codes or state laws require certain positions — The City would save $104 million. Employees could be laid off as early as July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, if the legislation is approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, said, “We do not support any legislation that pits workers against each other.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard criticized the proposal as a “hamfisted approach” that would “eliminate many of our doctors and nurses, the police command staff, and our prosecutors and public defenders.” He said Newsom’s “strategy is infinitely more sensible.”

Last week, Newsom ordered all city departments to cut salary budgets by at least 8 percent, proposing layoffs and the elimination of empty positions. By law, the mayor must submit a balanced city budget by June 1 to the Board of Supervisors for review and approval. Peskin said that The City should not wait until June 1.

“With very passing day, the projected deficit for next year continues to balloon,” Peskin said. “And there are steps that we can take now without waiting for the budget deliberations.”

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd also requested Tuesday an examinition into how much The City could save by not paying so-called nonessential city employees, including members of the board, between the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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