San Francisco is moving into the heart of city budget season, with the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee holding detailed budget hearings over the next month to modify the $5.9 billion budget that Mayor Ed Lee introduced on May 1. Lee's budget had a $66.7 million shortfall in the General Fund for the coming year, which he needs to close with a revised budget by June 1, as well as a $133.4 million budget hole the following fiscal year.
We at the Bay Guardian are here to help, because this is a mismanaged city that has some severely misplaced fiscal priorities right now. Although San Francisco's booming economy means this will be a far less painful budget season than previous years, the city still has a structural budget deficit and lingering damage from the administration of Gavin Newsom, who slashed services and raised a variety of fees to address big budget deficits without raising taxes.
The moment is now, when we have more revenues than expected — and more money than we're likely to have again for awhile given boom-bust business cycles and our over-dependence on the volatile tech sector — to finally create a city budget that sees to the needs of all San Franciscans.
WHAT WE SHOULD BE FUNDING
Medical Examiner's Office Families now have to wait at least six months to find out how their loved ones died in San Francisco, which is new, preventable, and unacceptable. Short staffing and slow turnaround times have led the National Association of Medical Examiners to downgrade this office's accreditation from "full" to "provisional." The city budget should provide the staffing needed to process autopsies and medical reports as quickly as the examiners and laboratories can perform them and help give grieving families the closure they're being denied for budgetary reasons.
Infographic: Click here for the full page inforaphic (also in this week's print edition) of Cash backwards.
Public health In a recently issued report, nurses at San Francisco General Hospital represented by SEIU Local 1021 publicly warned of dangerously low staffing levels. "Our patients frequently do not receive the level of care required by state law, hospital policies, or modern safety standards," they wrote. The concerns are especially worrisome in the Emergency Department, where core staffing of 22 nurses per shift dropped to 17 in recent months, or sometimes down to 11. "As a result, an average of 11 the Emergency Room's 26 beds are closed while the Hospital goes on diversion," turning away ambulances. "Over the year, our trauma center, SFGH, uses 3 percent more beds than budgeted—which indicates a dangerous lack of 'surge capacity' to absorb extra patients in the event of a natural disaster." The report noted that vacant positions are technically budgeted in, but lingered filled.