Mayor's proposed $6.6B budget includes cuts

June 1, 2009 6:41:26 PM PDT
The mayor of San Francisco is putting a positive spin on his new budget plan, while one city leader calls the whole mess a catastrophe.

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San Francisco's budget is $6.6 billion and by law, the books have to be balanced. We've already reported on higher Muni fares and cuts to Rec. and Park. On Monday, we learned, every single city department will feel some pain.

It was all smiles and handshakes before the numbers were unveiled and Mayor Gavin Newsom tried to remain upbeat about his proposal. It closes a $438 million deficit.

"So we get there, so we get there. I think without the devastation some had predicted," said Mayor Newsom.

Still more than 1,600 city government positions are being cut. Newsom says nearly 700 employees have already received pink slips. There are some sacred cows in the budget.

"We presented a balanced budget that guarantees no layoffs for firefighters or police officers, nor teachers in the city and county of San Francisco," said Newsom.

The city's universal health care program will grow. At the same time, two of the city's largest departments that serve some of the most vulnerable, public Health and Human Services, stand to lose nearly $71 million. The mayor points out that's only 3.3 percent of their budgets. But the cuts are still painful.

"It means that we will not be doing welfare fraud investigations anymore. We'll have fewer child welfare workers to investigate cases of abuse and neglect," said Trent Rhorer from the Department of Human Services.

He has also laid off more than 200 employees and reduced the work week for those who remain.

On the streets of the Mission District, Rene Quinones is carefully following the budget process. He runs a program that uses former gang members to reach kids in the neighborhood and steer them away from violence. He says the city already cut 20 percent from his budget this year and he's bracing for more.

"We don't know what's going to happen, but any cut to social services will have a domino affect that has an impact on the greater community," said Quinones.

The process now moves to the Board of Supervisors. The chair of the budget committee had this take on the mayor's speech.

"He was optimistic, but it's a controlled message that he's putting out. I really feel like we are in a catastrophe," said San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos.

And it will probably get worse. The city expects to lose as much as $175 million in state funds due to California's budget mess, and most of that is not factored in to the mayor's proposal.

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