With a $11.1 Billion Budget SF Spends Almost Two-Thirds More Per Capita than Seattle

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Last month, Mayor London Breed signed an $11.1 billion budget for each of fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-20 that reflects greater emphasis on reducing homelessness, increasing housing affordability, and keeping streets clean and safe. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, much of the budget had been composed by former Mayor Mark Farrell, who negotiated with then Mayor-Elect Breed and Budget Committee Chairwoman Malia Cohen. The budget passed at a July 31 Board of Supervisors meeting.

In announcing the newly adopted budget, Mayor Breed said that during the next two years, San Franciscans will see more law enforcement officers on foot patrols to help address violent and property crime.  Sixty million dollars was added for homeless prevention programs, including $4.4 million for a youth Navigation Center, $12 million to support a rapid-rehousing initiative for people who’ve recently become homeless and $6 million for street medical teams to assist people suffering from drug addiction, among other services. The monies will also pay for 430 new permanent supportive housing units for unhoused individuals.

Compared to the $365 million to be spent on programs to address homelessness under the Breed budget, Mayor Ed Lee had allotted $305 million. Another mid-sized municipality, Seattle, spent more than $77 million of its $5.6 billion 2018 budget on homelessness. Applied Survey Research data indicate that in 2017 the City of Seattle’s population of unsheltered individuals was 3,841; the equivalent number for San Francisco that year was 4,353.

“This budget will address our most pressing issues while also making a number of critical investments in our future,” said Mayor Breed. “What we see on our streets is unacceptable, and these budget investments are a key step to ensuring that San Franciscans see and feel a difference in all of our neighborhoods.”

“This $11 billion budget is a reflection of the values of the City of St. Francis, supporting the City’s most vulnerable with compassion and problem solving. It is the result of a robust, transparent, and inclusive process, with open and vigorous discussion of our priorities,” said Board president Malia Cohen. “I’m proud of our investments to reduce street homelessness, champion public safety for all citizens, clean our streets and parks, and keep our commitment to the residents of San Francisco.”

Almost $6 million will be spent on legal counsel for tenants facing eviction.  One million dollars will be expended to care for the more than 350 people housed in 37 different facilities contracted by the San Francisco Department of Public Heath to provide behavioral and medical services. Eight hundred million dollars was allotted to build new and preserve existing affordable housing, totaling nearly 3,000 units over the next two years.

The San Francisco Department of Public Work’s budget is pegged at $374.3 million in FY2018, $306.4 million in FY2019.  Of that, $13 million will be spent on street cleaning, including adding five new staffed public restrooms, extending operating hours for the five existing ones, and expanding hypodermic needle litter disposal team operations. The City’s Fix-It crew, which responds to quality of life issues identified by residents, will receive an additional $750,000.

A total of $1.7 million will be spent implementing 272 policing reforms recommended by the Obama Justice Department, such as improving community policing, providing anti-bias training, and ensuring greater accountability. One and a half million dollars will pay for four new positions at the Department of Police Accountability, which deals with police officer misconduct. Another $1.5 million will be allocated over the next two years to the San Francisco Fire Department to field a Medical Assistance Response Team to respond to calls that don’t require ambulance or fire engine services.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, San Francisco had a population of 884,363 in 2017; the City will spend approximately $12,551 per resident annually. This expenditure level is the highest in San Francisco’s history; per capita spending for the 2014-15 fiscal year was $9,433. Seattle, with 724,745 residents, will spend $7,727 on Seattleites based on its 2018 fiscal year budget; per citizen spending for Seattle in the 2014-15 fiscal year was $6,744. Washington, D.C., with a population of 693,972 and a 2019 fiscal year budget of $14.5 billion, will devote $20,894 per citizen. In 2014-15 fiscal year per capita spending for the nation’s capitol was $15,624, the highest among the country’s 100 largest cities. San Francisco came in second highest that year.

Roughly half of San Francisco’s budget supports City-related business operations, such as the Port of San Francisco, Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco International Airport and Public Utilities Commission. The other roughly 50 percent funds such departments as Public Health, Police, Fire, Recreation and Parks, among others.

Of the yearly $11 billion (not considering transfer adjustments), around 21 percent will go toward community health, four percent will be spent on culture and recreation, 12 percent on administration and finance, 13 percent for such municipal responsibilities as retiree subsides, 14 percent on human welfare and neighborhood development, 15 percent for public protection, and 39 percent on public works, transportation and commerce.

In contrast, Seattle allocated 55 percent of its FY2018 budget on utilities and transportation, five percent for health and human services, 12 percent on public safety, three percent for neighborhoods and development, and seven percent on arts, culture and recreation.

According to the Seattle Times, Seattle is the nation’s fastest growing large city, with an 18.7 percent population increase since 2010. SFWeekly reported that although San Francisco’s population is at all-time high, it grew by just about 10 percent since 2010; the 2017 population estimate is less than one percent more than in 2016, making it the smallest annual increase for the decade. The FY2018 budget is 24 percent larger than the 2015-2017 budget.

The present budget reflects a rise in total labor costs of $244.3 million, or 4.9 percent, for fiscal year 2018, and $183.3 million, or 3.5 percent, for fiscal year 2019. The increases were attributed to salary hikes for many employees. The 2015-2017 budget reflected a $154.7 million jump in total labor costs, or 3.6 percent for fiscal year 2015, and $153.9 million, or 3.4 percent, for fiscal year 2016. Those surges were attributed to higher wages and more hiring.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the City had 30,626 employees in 2016. A decade prior, before the Great Recession, there were 21,162 employees. That number then dropped by 1,000 employees during the economic downturn and subsequently increased by 4,500 workers over the course of several years. The current budget shows 31,320 employees for fiscal year 2018 and 31,606 for 2019.