SF hotel tax ballot measure has negative side effect on school budget

San Francisco school officials are concerned that a ballot measure meant to designate a significant portion of hotel taxes for homeless services and arts programs could also cost the school district $1.4 million in funding next year.

Proposition S would set aside $26 million of hotel tax revenue for arts and homeless services in San Francisco in 2017-18, according to the Controller’s Office. About $15 million would come from public transit, youth services, libraries and schools.

That includes $1.4 million from the San Francisco Unified School District through a reduction in the Public Education Enrichment Fund. PEEF is a voter-approved fund that supports wellness centers, arts and preschool services in the district.

Though the losses could grow to $2.7 million in 2019-20 as the hotel tax set aside increases, longtime school board member Jill Wynns said the potential benefits of the proposition outweigh the small loss for the district.

“Even though the school district will possibly not realize one-and-a-half to $2 million that we would otherwise realize, the amount of money that is going to go to serve our children and their families far exceeds that,” Wynns said at the school board’s budget committee last week.

Wynns, who is running for re-
election, said the school district could also make gains elsewhere from measures that add to The City’s general fund and could offset the losses from Prop. S.

The hotel tax brought in $380 million this year, which is not set aside for any purpose at present, according to the Controller’s Office.

“Setting aside money from the hotel tax fund to address issues of family homelessness, which has grown exponentially and also affects our kids, is a good thing to do,” said Wynns.

Wynns said that Prop. S could cover the costs of services for homeless families that the SFUSD foots the bill for.

However, school board member Rachel Norton said she is opposed to the ballot measure because it would have a “detrimental effect on PEEF.”

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the district’s funding, however we might care about other issues,” Norton said at the committee meeting.

Voters will decide on Tuesday whether the measure passes.

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