Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer introduced legislation that would alter the city budget process by increasing the amount of information shared with the public. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Fewer proposes more ‘transparency’ in city budget process

Legislation requires Mayor to hold a public hearing on spending priorities

San Francisco residents could have greater input and insight into The City’s budget process under legislation introduced Tuesday by Supervisor Sandra Fewer.

Fewer, the chair of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, wants residents to have more say on the annual city budget proposals.

Fewer said that the proposal, which has the backing of Supervisor Gordon Mar, will “provide more transparency in the budget process, and increase the capacity of the Board to engage meaningfully in budget analysis and decision-making.”

“The legislation that we are introducing today includes transparency improvements at every phase— for departments, Mayor and the Board of Supervisors,” Fewer said.

The legislation requires that Mayor London Breed hold by April 1 “at least one meeting open to the public, at which members of the public may provide input on the Mayor’s budget priorities.”

The legislation also requires the mayor to submit to the Board of Supervisors by April 30 a written description of the Mayor’s budget priorities that will be funded in the budget proposal over the upcoming two fiscal years.

The mayor usually provides department heads with budget instruction around December of each year. That generally occurs behind closed doors, but the instructions are posted on the City Controller’s website. City departments then submit their budget proposals, usually in February. Those proposals are used by the mayor to submit a balanced city budget by June 1 of each year to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption.

“The City’s $12 billion budget is the most important piece of policy that we pass each year— it is where we realize our priorities with tangible resources, whether that is affordable housing or senior services,” Fewer said. “This budget should be transparent and accessible. And as the City’s legislative body, the Board should have greater capacity to understand departmental budgets as they come before us.”

The proposal will also require all city agencies, with or without city commissions overseeing them, to hold two public meetings after they receive budget instructions from the Mayor but before they submit proposed budgets.

Fewer is also proposing to change the name of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee to the “Budget, Finance and Revenue Committee.”

The proposal would require that “by March 1 each year, the chair of the Budget, Finance and Revenue Committee shall introduce a motion for consideration by the Board, delineating the budget process for the coming months.”

The legislation also requires the City Controller’s Office to maintain a website for all budget related information, including the meeting schedules.

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