Let the budget bleeding begin

City departments were told to find a total of $45 million in cuts to help San Francisco offset the projected deficit already looming for the current fiscal year.

Department heads were instructed Tuesday that they have until Dec. 4 to submit their proposals to the budget staff of Mayor Gavin Newsom. The reductions will be on top of deep service cuts and layoffs implemented to balance the budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1.

“As you know, due to revenue weakness, expenditure growth and the loss of one-time solutions used to balance the FY 09-10 budget, we are facing another very large deficit for the coming year,” Newsom Budget Director Greg Wagner said in a letter sent Tuesday to department heads.

Each agency was told to meet different savings, amounts “proportionate to their share of general fund support.”

Departments that rely most on money from the operating budget sustained the largest cuts. That included $13 million from health, $6 million from police, $5 million from the sheriff and $3.6 million from human services.

The city controller issued a report Monday projecting a deficit for the city and county operating budget for the current fiscal year, prompting the need for midyear cuts. A decrease in property and payroll taxes combined with department overspending created the projected deficit, according to the report.

On Thursday, the Mayor’s Office is expected to announce the most recent deficit projection for the fiscal year that begins in July. And department heads were advised to gather for a meeting to receive budget instructions for the upcoming fiscal year, which will tell them to come up with a specific amount of reductions.

Last fiscal year’s budget instructions asked departments to submit proposed budgets incorporating 25 percent cuts to help close the projected $576 million deficit. The most recent estimate for next year’s deficit is in excess of $350 million.

Job-saving plan carrier price tag

Spending $8 million to save hundreds of nursing assistant or clerical jobs and prevent the pay cut or reassignment of hundreds more is a tough sell with San Francisco facing a budget shortfall, but supporters have found a new approach.

Members of the Board of Supervisors who advocate spending the millions were forced to abandon a proposal to dip into The City’s operating budget reserve fund after a report projected a deficit. Before the deficit projection, the board had failed to approve the plan.

And then Tuesday, supervisors John Avalos and Ross Mirkarimi supported taking the money from about $12 million that was put on reserve in the Department of Public Health budget at the start of the fiscal year. That new spending proposal is expected to be voted on next week. Opponents say that money is not really a reserve since the department had already planned to spend it.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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