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 Shamann Walton as Vice-Chair, and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. I also have the honor of serving as Chair of the five-member Budget and Appropriations Committee, which begins meeting in February and convenes until the conclusion of the City’s budget process each July; I serve on this committee alongside Supervisors Walton, Mandelman, Yee and Ronen, to engage in 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 $12 billion, nearly doubling in size during 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. It is also our responsibility to ensure that the City budget is spent responsibly and to achieve the greatest impact for the public.
As Chair of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee, it is my charge 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 five-member Budget and Appropriations Committee begins meeting in February to prepare for budget planning for Fiscal Years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022; these meetings are scheduled every Wednesday at 1pm through the end of May. The Committee will hold issue-specific budget hearings during the month of March, with topics to be determined, and will hold four department-specific budget hearings during the month of April, also to be determined. Throughout the Spring, the Committee will be receiving updates on budget landscape, revenue projections and more.
This year, the Committee will consider the budgets of several departments to be released by the Mayor on May 1st. Several of these are departments on a two-year fixed budget cycle: Municipal Transportation Authority, the Airport, the Port, and the Public Utilities Commission. Several other small non-general fund departments will also be presenting their budgets in May.
Once the Mayor’s proposed budget is released by June 1st, the Budget and Appropriations 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 Appropriations Committee will conclude on June 24, 2020, 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.
All hearings will include public comment, and a day dedicated to public input will occur in June.
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.