It is time for San Francisco’s top seven elected executives to join in a shared citywide sacrifice to help balance The City’s $305 million projected budget deficit. The mayor, sheriff, city attorney, district attorney, treasurer, public defender and assessor-recorder should defer their automatic Proposition C salary increases, which they gained in a 2006 City Charter amendment that passed with 63 percent of the vote.
Under Proposition C, the Civil Service Commission adjusts their salaries every five years to keep them competitive with comparable Bay Area elected officers, and can also set annual cost-of-living increases. This year’s budgeted cost-of-living increases total $45,130, and range from $6,000 to $8,000 apiece. However, last year when Proposition C first took effect, Sheriff Mike Hennessey and Mayor Gavin Newsom each received increases of approximately $56,000.
Any kind of executive pay raise seems inappropriate when Newsom has asked the public employee unions to reduce city labor costs 3 percent via voluntary unpaid furloughs, wage-increase deferrals or other cost-cutting methods. If all 12,562 city employees — including police and firefighters — took four unpaid days off next year, the general fund could save as much as $26.5 million.
The Mayor’s Office did announce that Newsom would donate his upcoming salary increase to an unnamed charity. While that is a well-meaning gesture, it might be more fitting for all the top elected officials to simply return their latest cost-of-living increases to the general fund. Their $45,130 could help pay for an additional firefighter, police officer or parks keeper. After all, these leaders have prime responsibility for maintaining quality basic services in The City.
The majority of San Francisco’s highest-paid municipal employees — the 900 members of the Municipal Executives’ Association — already won The Examiner’s praise for stepping up to accept five mandatory unpaid days off. The MEA is also deferring next year’s budgeted $1 million raises until 2009-10, and their total give-backs will save $7 million during the next two years. The Mayor’s Office staff and other unrepresented city executives are not receiving wage increases in the coming year’s budget.
When leaders call for shared sacrifices in the name of the greater good, it seems only right that those leaders calling for sacrifice should set a good example and be the first to take pay cuts themselves. That might well give City Hall better grounds to end labor foot-dragging and bring about a return to the bargaining table.
Of course, the best improvement at this point would be to simply revise the Proposition C charter amendment so that annual raises are postponed during major deficit years, which we now see is how the policy should have been drafted in the first place.