Holiday week furlough sensible

As the San Francisco Board of Supervisors began casting about for expenditures to cut for balancing the upcoming 2008-09 deficit — which has now ballooned to an estimated $338 million — one of the less attention-grabbing proposals makes sense to us.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd asked for a staff analysis of how much money The City could save by assigning all “nonessential” city employees an unpaid one-week furlough between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Even though the potential savings are unlikely to make a spectacular reduction in the deficit burden, we expect the accountants to recommend that a one-week furlough is worth enacting in a severe budget crunch. An unpaid Christmastime week off became fairly common among smaller Peninsula cities following the dot-com bust and the post-Sept. 11 travel slowdown.

The City Hall furloughs helped San Mateo County towns weather the worst of the slump until local and state revenues rebounded. In the private sector, especially for smaller businesses, it is also common practice to close down the entire shop for all-employee vacations during the slow season.

The “unpaid” furlough can be structured so that it does not even cost most employees any lost income. They are simply required to take some annual vacation at a time financially helpful toa struggling employer. Any workers on staff for six months or a year have presumably earned a week of paid vacation that they could use during the holiday furlough.

The Examiner supports a Christmas week shutdown of nonessential services at San Francisco City Hall and the outlying departments. Of course, such furloughs should not be imposed on civil service employees except at times of dire financial need. But this strategy is considerably less painful than the alternatives.

A short-term salary reduction spread across the larger work force should cause less turmoil than a smaller number of permanent layoffs that reduce the level of services available to the public. And with police and firefighter personnel exempt from such furloughs, The City would experience no loss of public safety.

Make no mistake about it, San Francisco must produce many more ideas for large and small cost cuts to get through the serious deficit crisis just ahead. The City will have nearly $160 million less revenue for the 2008-09 budget than was predicted just five months ago. The latest City Hall accounting report says only $7.6 million will be left over at the end of this year to help balance the next budget.

However, there is one other point we like about Elsbernd’s proposal: His roster of nonessential employees eligible for unpaid furlough would include the members of the Board of Supervisors. And we welcome Mayor Gavin Newsom’s directive Wednesday calling for voluntary Thanksgivingand Christmas-New Year’s holiday week furloughs for city employees as a step in the right direction.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

More than a thousand people gathered in front of the California Capitol building to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay at home order and demand that the state re-open on May 1, 2020. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)
Newsom blames ‘right-wing pundits’ for COVID surge

By Emily Hoeven CalMatters Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday placed the blame… Continue reading

Strong California revenues will allow the state to commit to offering no-cost food to every student. (Amanda Mills/Pixnio)
How California plans to offer free daily meals to 6 million public school students

By Ali Tadayon EdSource With one in every six children facing hunger… Continue reading

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), pictured here in 2012, was assaulted robbed and assaulted near Oakland’s Jack London Square on Monday, July 26th, 2021.(Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times)
Former U.S. Sen. Boxer robbed, assaulted in Oakland

By Lauren Hard New York Times Barbara Boxer, 80, a former U.S.… Continue reading

San Francisco Police stand guard outside the Mission Police Station during a protest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fired: California bill aims to decertify police for serious misconduct

By Robert Lewis CalMatters On a Wednesday afternoon in April 2018, Gardena… Continue reading

Most Read