SF budget to hit hard on city workers

June 2, 2008 7:01:40 PM PDT
There is some difficult news for city workers in San Francisco. Mayor Newsom unveiled his multi- million dollar budget proposal and it cuts hundreds of jobs, but it also increases spending in other areas.

"Nothing alarming, nothing damning, it's not even comparable to Vallejo," says Mayor Newsom.

Mayor Gavin Newsom preferred to accentuate the positive, including a $14.5 million increase in San Francisco's universal healthcare program, $2.3 million more for street repaving, and nearly $5 million for additional police academy classes.

But, there's plenty of bad news in this telephone book sized spending plan. The record budget has a $338 million deficit.

Newsom is proposing laying off 450 workers, eliminating 635 vacant positions, reducing overtime and raising fees for city services.

"We're gonna reduce the size of our workforce to a reasonable number of people so we can solve our structural problems. We're gonna be more business-like in our approach to travel budgets, car budgets and cell phone budgets," says Mayor Newsom.

Still, there will be blood.

The most painful cuts are at the city's health department, with more than $50 million in cuts, which San Franciscans will certainly feel.

"No one should be abandoned, but in many cases, people will get a lower level of service," says Mitch Katz with the San Francisco Health Department.

The venue for the budget unveiling was tightly restricted, but costumed demonstrators managed to get in to protest the Mayor's budget priorities.

"They're decimating services for poor low-income folks and balancing the budget on the backs of the poor," says San Francisco activist James Chionsini.

The Mayor says the fiscal situation would not be so dire if city employee unions would make concessions. The 900 managers in various departments have agreed to take five days without pay in each of the next two years.

"It represents about a two to three percent cut, but more importantly, it saves the city about $4 million," says Eileen Hirst of the Municipal Executives Association.

But, the city's police officers are not going along, and so far, neither are the more than 12,000 employees who work everywhere from Muni, to Rec and Park, to SF General Hospital.

"I think it's disingenuous to single out the nurses as not giving anything, when a lot of things we were promised in our contract last year have not been honored thus far. We're hopeful that labor will step up and reconsider, if they don't, it's going to be a difficult month," says Alfredo Mireles, a nurse at SF General Hospital.

"We're hopeful that labor will step up and reconsider, if they don't, it's going to be a difficult month," says Newsom.

The budget now goes to the Board of Supervisors. They will hold public hearings and they can restore some of those cuts, but they will have to make other cost cutting measures. The final budget is due on July 1.

LINKS

Read the entire budget at the Mayor's website


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