As San Francisco continues crawling out of the economic hole dug by the pandemic, Mayor London Breed is promoting her vision of recovery by calling for more spending on public safety, battling homelessness and city worker salaries in her nearly $14 billion annual budget proposal.
“When people have made a number of requests for additional services, for additional support, for additional assistance, it’s not just about the dollars and the policy, it’s about the people who actually do the work,” Breed said in a speech unveiling the spending plan at Union Square. “I am optimistic about the future of the city more than I’ve ever been because I’m confident about the investments that we are making.”
Among the proposed spending increases are an additional $177 million for the Department of Public Health and a $176 million boost for courts, police, fire and other public safety agencies. Breed is also proposing $364 million more for public works, transportation and commerce over last year’s budget.
The mayor’s plan also includes $320 million more for human welfare and neighborhood development, as well an additional $215 million for general services, including funds for transit, libraries and managing healthcare for city retirees.
In the other direction, the proposed budget includes $170 million less for general administration and finance in line with the mayor’s directive for departments to rein in costs during the pandemic.
The mayor is required by law to submit a proposed balanced budget by the first day in June. To achieve this, the proposal uses $154.3 million in reserves, leaving a balance of around $130 million in the city’s Fiscal Cliff Reserve for future shortfalls.
In January, San Francisco’s budget office projected a $108.1 million surplus for the next two fiscal years, mainly due to Covid relief funds from federal and state officials. However, that sunny picture of the city’s fiscal health has been adjusted downward to $74.7 million in March due to lower-than-expected revenue projections.
The most recent update in May dropped the number down to a mere $15 million in large part due to an increase in labor costs because of new contracts negotiated between public-sector unions and city officials.
Salary and benefits increases are a major portion of the city’s new spending, including $171.5 million over the next two years for raises and benefits increases for city workers who will receive 10% in pay raises over the next two years.
The budget also includes $70 million over the next years to support wages for nonprofit workers in the city, including a 5.25% raise and $30 million for salary increases for those working in the city’s permanent supportive housing portfolio. Case managers would receive a raise up to $28 an hour and wages for janitors and desk clerks at the sites would also rise.
The proposed budget also earmarks around $50 million to help the city’s economic recovery by funding grants for small businesses and public safety measures like increasing funding for police patrols and Urban Alchemy in Mid-Market and the Tenderloin.
Public safety—an increasing focus for the mayor in the past year or so—also gets a big boost in her plan, which carves out $81.5 million to fund more overtime for the sheriff and fire departments as well as additional spending for salaries and recruitment for the police department and funding for more crisis counselors and park rangers.
“Not only are we proposing academy classes, we are increasing the starting pay of officers, we are adding incentive bonuses for those who choose to stay in SF longer and we’re going to make a commitment to do everything we can to not only support our police force in San Francisco but also do the reforms necessary to show we are leading the way on police reform,” Breed said from a podium flanked by deputies and police officers.
On the housing and homelessness front, the mayor wants $4 million to boost the number of subsidized units, $10 million for infrastructure improvement and repairs at nonprofit below-market-rate housing projects and $30 million to increase the number of homelessness case managers, invest in the city’s shelters and the create a new 40-unit “tiny home” site in the Mission.
The mayor has also made ending homelessness for trans residents by 2027 a goal. She said she aims to do so through investments that would provide at least 200 permanent supportive housing units for the population and $3 million for nonprofit providers serving trans San Franciscans.
Behavioral health and substance abuse services would also get a boost through $57.5 million over the next two years to increase the operating capacity to 360 behavioral health treatment beds. Breed’s plan also includes funding to help sustain operations at the Tenderloin Center through the end of the year. For patients in crisis who have received multiple involuntary psychiatric holds, the mayor proposes an additional $3.7 million for staff focused on timely support, follow-up and care coordination.
Funding for children and families is another key budget priority. Nearly $50 million over the next two years is earmarked for childcare vouchers for low-income families, increased funding for the city’s Family Resource Centers and additional ways for families to identify and access city support.
Another focus of the proposed budget is speeding up hiring and contracting and investing $56 million to improve technology for the city’s backend logistics system.
“There are people who have tried to count San Francisco out, there are people who only try to focus on the negative and take those various viral videos and put them all over the map,” Breed remarks. “But here’s the good news: We know what our city is, we know we’re the phoenix.”
“When faced with a challenge, like the phoenix we are, we rise to the occasion and we make the investments and we provide the support and we come together like a city.”Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected].