Supervisors start dissecting mayor's budget proposal

Two days after Mayor Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposed $6.5 billion budget, which includes 450 layoffs, supervisors held their first public meeting to pick apart the financial details of the fiscal plan.

The layoffs and other cost-cutting measures were needed to erase a $338 million projected budget deficit, Newsom said.

His cuts include reducing use of beds at the county jail to save $6.8 million, $29 million in one-time cost savings identified by a number of department heads and $28.8 million in cuts at the Department of Public Health.

The Board of Supervisors’ five-member Budget and Finance Committee raised a number of concerns about Newsom’s budget proposal at Wednesday’s hearing. The committee will ultimately recommend a version of Newsom’s proposed budget to the full board for approval by the end of the month.

When Newsom announced his budget, he said he had eliminated 1,000 jobs, including more than 400 city workers who would be laid off. With staff increases in some departments, the total net reduction of city jobs is 99, according to the City Controller’s Office.

Jobs added in Newsom’s proposed budget include 150 new police officers and 26 positions at The City’s 311 informational call center, said Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda.

The mayor’s budget is facing criticism for its funding priorities, and advocacy groups are starting to organize protests.

Committee chairman Jake McGoldrick said that if The City doesn’t hire the call-center employees, it could save about $2.6 million and if it doesn’t hire 100 police officers, it could save $10 million.

“Some of the big additions of staff there may not make it through our particular sausage machine,” McGoldrick said.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd questioned how The City could reduce jail beds while increasing police staff — a move, he said, that would logically result in more arrests.

The committee will begin reviewing individual departmental budgets the week of June 16. It is scheduled to finish budget hearings on June 26.

For the following fiscal year, beginning July 2009, the mayor’s budget office is already estimating a deficit as much as $312.9 million.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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