Newsom seeking flexibility in budget

In the past, San Francisco voters have shaped The City’s budget priorities by approving “set-asides” for everything from children’s services to minimum firehouse funding.

On Tuesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed a nonbinding resolution to the Board of Supervisors that would make it “official city policy” that no new mandatory spending requirements be added to city law unless “it identifies or provides a specific, adequate new source of funds.”

San Francisco is facing a projected $338 million budget shortfall for next year. In a statement, the mayorsaid city officials only have discretion over approximately 39 percent of The City’s general fund due to budget set-asides, limiting the ability of San Francisco’s elected leaders to adjust spending. As a result, service cuts have become the default option available, said Newsom.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, said the resolution likely has other motives and is “aimed straight” at an affordable-housing set-aside that Supervisor Chris Daly — Newsom’s most outspoken political rival on the board — placed on the November ballot with support from his legislative colleagues.

Nonetheless, McGoldrick said he is not a fan of set-asides and said that Newsom’s proposed policy was a “worthwhile” discussion to have.

Of The City’s $6.07 billion budget this fiscal year, $1.1 billion was available to legislators to spend as they saw fit. Another $861 million went toward The City’s required spending. Set-asides and spending mandates are also designated for police, a reserve account, parks, homelessness and the San Francisco Symphony.

The resolution’s adoption requires approval by the Board of Supervisors.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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