Mayor Ed Lee is flexing his budget power over free tuition for City College of San Francisco.
But a key vote expected Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors on eliminating tuition for CCSF will test his resolve.
The budget showdown comes after voters rejected a sales tax hike in November that would have funded homeless and transit services assumed in the city budget.
In response, the mayor announced last week he would fund half of the homeless services, street tree care, and nonprofit legal defense for undocumented immigrants by using revenues from another tax measure voters approved, Proposition W, a tax hike on high end property sales.
But there’s just one problem. Backers of Prop. W, such as Supervisor Jane Kim, who placed it on the ballot, say the money was supposed to only go toward making CCSF free right away and criticize the mayor for raiding their pot of revenue.
On Tuesday, the board is voting on a $9 million supplemental introduced by Kim for making CCSF tuition free for the semester beginning August 2017. A rally is planned before the vote, with the San Francisco Labor Council and actor and activist Danny Glover, a CCSF graduate.
The mayor, however, has said that while he won’t veto the supplemental if approved by the board, he just won’t spend the money. The board has the power to appropriate money and the mayor the power to spend it.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday she is siding with Kim in calling for fully-funding a free CCSF.
The mayor said he will only spend on free CCSF $500,000 this fiscal year and $4.25 million in each of the subsequent fiscal years – a far cry from the estimated $13 million needed annually.
The mayor’s position did not change as of Monday. “The mayor supports the City College supplemental but spending it over a longer period so we have a sustainable program that addresses the needs of those students that can not afford City College,” mayoral spokesperson Deirdre Hussey said.
Meanwhile, head of The City’s homeless department Jeff Kositsky has requested the board’s Budget and Finance Committee authorize spending $6.5 million for Navigation Centers and “homeless exits” according to the mayor’s new budget plan using Prop. W funds.
Kositsky said he “worked diligently with the mayor to ensure critical homelessness spending” continues and that he is “appreciative the mayor was able to do this much through the rebalancing process in light of the fact that The City lost $155 million in budgeted funds.”
The budget committee will vote on that funding Wednesday.