Rec and Park slashes budget by $3.4M per mayor's request

San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Commission approved a budget Thursday that included $3.4 million in cost savings, through the elimination of unfilled positions and fee increases, in response to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s request that all city departments shave at least 8 percent off their budgets.

Newsom, who attended the meeting, said that with a $233 million budget deficit, the only way to reconcile the gap is through belt-tightening.

“Look, I don’t like any of these cuts, period,” said Newsom, who had approved funding for 15 new gardeners in last year’s fiscal budget.

“But in the absence of these, then what? We have spent an enormous amount of time with our budget team, drilling down behind the scenes as what the other cuts could look like, and these are the bestwe came up with.”

Under the proposed plan, the Recreation and Park Department would eliminate 31 vacant positions, including 20 potential openings for gardeners, to save $2.5 million.

Meredith Thomas of the Neighborhood Parks Council told commissioner’s at Thursday’s meeting that the elimination of the vacant positions affects the efficiency of actively-employed gardeners.

“If you’re classified as a gardener but you’re picking up trash all day, you can’t do your job,” Thomas said. “The gardeners are seriously overworked, and when you talk about eliminating vacant positions, it makes it very difficult to reinstate them in the future.”

Another $900,000 would be saved by boosting fees to some park facilities, including ones in Golden Gate Park such as the Japanese Tea Garden.

The department also has to provide the Mayor’s Office with an additional 5 percent in contingency cuts. Several of the cuts suggested by Recreation and Park staff, including lay-offs for park patrol rangers and closing down the Randall Museum, were rejected by the Recreation and Park Commission.

Officials from the Recreation and Park Department and the Mayor’s Office will continue budget negotiations over the next three months, said department spokesperson Rose Dennis. The City budget will be formally submitted by the mayor to the Board of Supervisors on June 1 in time for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

wreisman@examiner.com

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