New debt puts services in limbo

Five months after San Francisco officials cut many city services to the bone and raised prices on everything from pool visits to bus rides, taxpayers will again be faced with a round of slashing and burning, as The City projects a new $53.1 million deficit for the ongoing fiscal year.

The current shortfall to the roughly $3 billion general fund — the operating budget that pays for the police and fire departments, health services, street cleaning and parks, among other services — is based on decreases in property and payroll taxes, according to a budget report issued Monday by the city controller.

Further exacerbating the situation: City departments are not receiving expected revenue or are overspending. The Fire Department, for example, projects a $5.1 million shortfall, while the Sheriff’s Department projects a deficit of $2.7 million due to an unforeseen increase in the jail population.

The City closed one of its largest deficits in history for this fiscal year, which began in July — in excess of $500 million — through layoffs, service cuts and fee hikes. To do that, Muni fares were increased from $1.50 to $2 for a single adult fare, recreation centers reduced hours and staff, and a half-million dollars was cut from the opera, ballet and theater.

Additionally, about 900 city workers were laid off or reassigned. Among the latest potential casualties are more than 100 certified nursing assistants and clerical workers on the verge of losing their jobs, and hundreds more are facing reassignment or pay cuts.

About $100 million in new or increased fees also went into effect, making it more expensive for street fairs, food vendors, visitors of cultural institutions, and the use of pools and clubhouses. Cigarettes increased by 20 cents per pack.

Now, Mayor Gavin Newsom and city officials must find another $53.1 million in reductions to balance the budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Under the City Charter, San Francisco cannot operate with a deficit. And a bleak outlook is already on the horizon for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which begins July 1, when The City will have to close a projected deficit of more than $350 million.

The deep cuts to public safety departments that were avoided at the start of this fiscal year, such as the controversial “browning out” of fire stations and canceling or postponing police academy classes, likely will return to the table for political debate.

Impacts on taxpayers will be more specific once city departments present their recommended cuts to the Mayor’s Office.

Chief of Staff Steve Kawa said Newsom met Monday with departments about the budget and plans to order them today to come up with reductions.

“I think it’s very serious,” Kawa said. “It’s indicative of the state of the economy.”

Newsom in the coming weeks is expected to submit midyear reductions to the Board of Supervisors, which will then have 45 days to act on them.

San Francisco city budget

$6.6 billion Total budget for fiscal year 2009-10
$576 million Deficit closed to start fiscal year
$53.1 million Projected deficit for current fiscal year
$25 million General fund reserve, which could be tapped to offset deficit

Breakdown of deficit

Proposed supplemental to restore clerical nursing jobs    -$8.0 million
Projected loss of property tax revenue    -$35.0 million
Projected loss of payroll tax revenue    -$24.8 million
Other projected revenue losses    -$13.4 million
Projected positive revenue from hotel room tax    $28.0 million
Other projected positive revenue    $9.7 million
Total    -$43.5 million

Department variances

Assessor-Recorder    -$0.9 million
City Planning    -$1.7 million
Fire    -$5.1 million
Human Services    $7.1 million
Juvenile Probation    -$1.0 million
Public Defender    -$1.7 million
Public Health    $1.0 million
Sheriff’s    -$4.0 million
Superior Court    -$3.2 million
Total    -$9.6 million

Source: City Controller’s Office

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced that funding would be diverted from the police budget toward the black community in June 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City directs $60 million toward Black community services and housing support

San Francisco released new details Thursday for how it plans to spend… Continue reading

The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar which is vacating its longtime home at Ninth and Harrison streets after more than 50 years, on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City’s nightlife recovery fund approved but struggling business owners fear relief may come too late

As San Francisco’s nightlife scene approaches nearly a year of a complete… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

Most Read