Message from the Budget and Finance Chair Sandra Lee Fewer
It is my honor to serve as the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, alongside Supervisor Catherine Stefani as Vice-Chair, and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Supervisors Norman Yee and Hillary Ronen also serve as temporary members of the expanded committee from March through July, as it engages in hearings and planning for the next two years of the City budget.
The city budget is the most important piece of legislation that the Board of Supervisor passes each year, and is the opportunity for the City and County to invest financial resources in the programs and services that are priorities for San Francisco residents. San Francisco’s budget now totals more than $11 billion, nearly doubling in size in the last decade; with that increase has come expanded and improved services and programs for city residents, small businesses and community organizations.
At the same time that our city budget is increasing, so is our population, and our needs as a city continue to grow and shift. As City Hall’s legislative branch, it is the Board of Supervisors’ responsibility to work with the Mayor to balance the budget while responding to those shifting needs. And as Chair of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee, it is my responsibility to lead our work on the budget with great care and precision, while being inclusive of not only each of my colleagues but also the public. The dollars that are spent as part of the city budget are taxpayer dollars, generated on the backs of hardworking San Franciscans. I do not take this responsibility lightly, and the decisions we make about how to prioritize those funds must be made thoughtfully.
The expanded five-member Budget and Finance Committee will begin meeting in March to prepare for budget planning for Fiscal Years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021; these meetings are scheduled every Wednesday at 1pm through the end of May. The committee will coordinate the Board’s policy priority process for the budget, holding a series of April hearings on the top policy areas that the Board would like to be prioritized in the Mayor’s proposed budget, with the help of the Budget and Legislative Analyst. In May, the committee will hold additional departmental hearings to begin discussions about key aspects of the budget in advance of June. All hearings will include public comment.
Once the Mayor’s proposed budget is released by June 1st, the Budget and Finance Committee will have the opportunity to review departmental budgets, identify cost-savings and redundancies, and re-prioritize those funds for priorities as determined by the Board. Any funds that the Board cuts from the Mayor’s proposed budget accumulate into a pot of funds then available for the Board to “add-back” to the budget for priorities that they’ve identified. The “add-back” process for the Budget and Finance Committee will conclude on June 26, 2019, and the committee will vote on a spending plan to forward to the full Board of Supervisors, who will then vote on the budget in July.
Principles for the Board’s Budget Process:
- Transparency: I am committed to publicly releasing budget documents, regularly updating the budget calendar, and making the budget process as accessible as possible to members of the public.
- Public Input: Members of the public will have the opportunity for comment during each day of committee hearings, as well as the traditional public comment day that takes place in June. Public comment will include 2 minutes per speaker, and accommodations will be made for seniors, people with disabilities, and parents with small children. Additionally, my office will be accepting submissions regarding budget requests, as well as suggestions for departmental cost-savings, through an online form on the budget webpage.
- Equity: It is critical that as a City we aim to create opportunities for those who have historically been denied opportunities to thrive. City departments will be asked to speak to how their services and programs prioritize racial and economic equity to achieve such a goal.
- Geographic Balance: We must consider a balance both between citywide budget and policy priorities, as well as district priorities. And amongst the districts, we should have a balance between neighborhoods, to take into consideration community need as well as access to services and program.
- Accountability: Finally, it is the responsibility of the Budget and Finance Committee to ensure accountability for the budget as well, so that funds set aside for a particular purpose are expended for that purpose, and we are ensuring quality services for the residents of San Francisco.