Raises doled out amid budget woes

Although The City is facing a $305 million projected budget deficit for next year, San Francisco’s top elected officials are still in line to receive pay raises as a result of a voter-approved measure that provides for annual salary boosts.

Proposition C, a 2006 city charter amendment approved by 63 percent of the vote, authorized The City to adjust the salaries of the top seven elected officials — the assessor-recorder, city attorney, district attorney, mayor, public defender, treasurer, and sheriff — every five years to make the salaries competitive with comparable positions around the Bay Area.

Additionally, The City’s Civil Service Commission may, but is not required to, increase the salaries each year to adjust for cost-of-living increases. On May 19, the Civil Service Commission approved the new base salaries, slated for inclusion in The City’s budget for fiscal year 2008-09, which begins July 1.

For the coming fiscal year, The City is facing the second-highest projected budget shortfall since Mayor Gavin Newsom came to office. Newsom has asked city unions to reduce The City’s total labor costs by 3 percent, suggesting city workers accept mandatory furloughs and wage deferrals, among other cost-cutting measures.

Last year, the first year Proposition C went into effect, Sheriff Mike Hennessey and Newsom received the largest and second-largest pay increases, respectively, when both of their salaries jumped by approximately $56,000. The mayor’s salary for 2007 was $214,659, according to Controller’s Office data.

The Mayor’s Office said Newsom would be donating his salary increase to charity, but would not say which one.

This year, none of the cost-of-living increases comes to more than $8,079, and the total pay increase for all seven positions is a $45,130, according to documents from the Civil Service Commission.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who was the lone supervisor to vote against putting the measure on the November 2006 ballot, said he still doesn’t think The City needed to recalibrate its salaries.

The $45,130 could help pay for an additional firefighter, police officer or gardener, he said.

“I think there are better uses of our dollars than increasing the salaries of our citywide elected officials, especially in a time of mass layoffs and service reductions,” he said. “If they voluntarily wanted to [give the money back], I’m sure The City’s general fund would welcome those dollars with open arms.”


Pricey public-relations staff put under spotlight

City employees hired to interact with the media and with the government receive $10.55 million in salaries and such fringe benefits as health care, according to a City Controller’s Office memo.

The City has 89 public information or government affairs officers budgeted this fiscal year, which ends June 30; of those positions, roughly 75 are filled. Approximately $2.9 million of the funding for the positions comes from The City’s general fund, which currently faces a projected $308 million budget deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1.

As a result of the fiscal shortfall, Mayor Gavin Newsom made midyear cuts and requested city departments crack down on overtime usage. He also asked city departments to slash salary expenditures in their budgets for next year.

The data on The City’s public and government relations officers was requested by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who told The Examiner he was concerned about government efficiency and performance.

“It’s a question of explaining the justification of why we have to have 89 [public information officers],” Mirkarimi said.

There are 51 city departments, 25 of which said they have at least one public information, public relations or government affairs staffer, according to the Controller’s Office report.

Of the budgeted positions, more than half are from within three departments: the Municipal Transportation Agency (14), the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (25) and the Department of Public Works (10), according to the controller’s report.

Newsom’s office has seven filled positions. The mayor’s communications director, Nathan Ballard, has an annual salary of $143,123, according to the report.

Newsom spokeswoman Giselle Barry pointed out that the report gave no “consistent definition” of a public information or government affairs officer, which would make it difficult to cut costs associated with the duties.

Mirkarimi said the information still has value and should be considered when making budget cuts.

“As the mayor says, we have to look everywhere,” he said.

— David Smith

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