Newsom Surprises Board of Supes

Newsom: We are going to be asked to do things dramatically different

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Newsom talks tough about budget woes

    San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced more than $118 million in budget cuts as well as revenue increases to fend off a projected $575.6 million deficit for the coming fiscal year.

    Newsom made a surprise appearance before the Board of Supervisors this afternoon where he declared the city was in fiscal crisis and appealed to the board to collaborate on future adjustments to the budget.

    "We are going to be asked to do things dramatically different," Newsom told board members and asked for their "support, help and counsel" in solving the crisis.

    Newsom said his office had created six councils addressing future cuts on which supervisors will be asked to participate.

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    The city of San Francisco is going to have to "dramatically change" the way it does business.

    The estimated budget deficit amounts to nearly half of the city's $1.2 billion discretionary fund, according to the mayor's office.

    Following his appearance before the board, Newsom proposed $118.29 million in "solutions" to the shortfall, $71 million in cuts and $47 million in new revenues, made up of unspent funds from the previous fiscal year and $12 million from the Health Department. The cuts included the layoffs of 399 city workers and the elimination of 313 vacant city positions.

    The mayor's office said a significant portion of the cuts would come from the Department of Public Health, the largest city department, but that most of the cuts would not result in direct reductions to services.

    Other cutbacks included delaying the hiring of two police academy classes, and another in the sheriff's department, as well as the freezing of 77 police civilian hires, according to the mayor's office.

    The proposal will likely be certified by the controller's office in the near future and does not require the board's approval, according to the mayor's office.

    Layoffs will become effective in late February, budget officials said.

    Newsom called the solutions "difficult and painful," and said he was not enthusiastic or proud of them.

    "I don't think it's overstating to call the budget situation in San Francisco a crisis," Newsom told the board. He warned 2009 could be even worse.

    "The mid-year solutions pale in comparison to next year's budget deficit," Newsom said, but he stopped short of declaring a state of emergency today, saying such a statement was not necessary.

    Newsom, a former supervisor, last addressed the board as mayor in 2004, according to an aide in Supervisor Aaron Peskin's office.

    The supervisors greeted Newsom politely and said they agreed the city was facing a fiscal crisis, but some expressed concern the board, and the public, was being shut out of the process by not passing the proposed cuts through board committees, which receive comment from the public.

    Newsom noted that public comment is also received at city department commission meetings.

    "I am absolutely confident," Newsom told board members, "that we will work through this."

    "Perhaps it does take a crisis to bring our respective branches of government together," Peskin said.

    Even Supervisor Chris Daly, an often vocal critic of Newsom, said he hoped "that this is a different tone for the new year."

    Daly said close collaboration between the mayor and the board was needed to spare the most needy San Franciscans from cuts.

    Peskin today offered legislative solutions of his own, introducing an ordinance proposing about $8.5 million in cuts to the city's general fund.