SF still reeling from budget cuts

December 10, 2008 7:20:52 PM PST
These are grim days at San Francisco City Hall and Mayor Gavin Newsom says they are going to get worse.

"We're going to do budget instructions today asking for up to 24 percent in additional cuts to get through the next few months to balance next year's budget deficit; this is without precedent," Newsom said.

That 24 percent is on top of the $118 million balancing act announced Tuesday that included $71 million in cuts.

Wednesday, department heads are assessing the damage.

Public Works must immediately cut $1.4 million from its $60 million budget. People will be laid-off and trees will not be trimmed as often. Changes have already been made to street sweeping.

"There are various support positions and other various things we'll stop doing or not start doing," Public Works spokesperson Ed Reiskin said.

Public Health receives about $410 million from the city's general fund and will take a $17 million hit. About 100 people will lose their jobs and programs will be eliminated, but the director does not see the situation as dire.

"If for a few years there are some services that we're not able to provide or people have to wait longer for services, that's bad, but the world is not ending," Mitch Katz said.

But the city clearly is in crisis. Even the fire department, which some consider a "sacred cow," is being asked to reduce its $275 million budget by nearly $4 million. One supervisor is suggesting some stations close on a rotating basis, something that was done in 2004 but then outlawed by voters.

"It was difficult budget times then; they are much more extreme at this point, and that was about a $6 million solution," San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

Former Mayor Willie Brown says every part of San Francisco government has to bear some of the burden.

"My goal would be to make sure there is not one layoff, even if it means reducing salaries to people," Brown said. Brown believes unions need to make wage concessions to avoid layoffs.

In the meantime, 399 of the city's nearly 28,000 employees are expected to receive pink slips before the end of the week.


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