In a move intended to “spread the pain” of the city’s $438 million worth of budget cuts across all departments, the Board of Supervisors voted 7-3 on Tuesday to approve an interim budget that includes $82 million worth of reductions to police, fire and sheriffs services.
“This is the beginning of a meaningful dialogue [with Mayor Gavin Newsom],” said Supervisor David Campos, part of the progressive bloc who proposed the cuts last week and approved them today. Campos said he hopes that Tuesday’s maneuver will lead to productive budget discussions this month on the final fiscal year 2009-2010 budget.
Supervisors who sided with the cuts were on the receiving end of sharp barbs from representatives of public safety unions and Newsom, who appeared at an afternoon rally decrying the supervisors’ plans. Local 798 of the Firefighters’ Union appeared in City Hall in force, greeting supervisors with boos and chanting for recall of Supervisor John Avalos, who has also drafted a charter resolution that would extend firefighters’ workweeks (and cut down on overtime costs to the city).
Architects of the interim budget maintained that the $82 million in public safety cuts are proposed with equity in mind.
“We are not the enemy here,” Campos said. “There are larger forces out there that put us in this position.”
The SFPD, SFFD and Sheriff’s Departments’ budgets were all slated to increase over the coming year. The Fire Department has an operating budget of $278 million; the Police Department has an operating budget of $433 million.
According to Chu, the Fire department has a overtime budgeting request of $23 million, with a requested cut to the overall budget of $15 million. The Police department has $18 million in OT requested, with a requested interim budget cut request of 26 million, making for quite a set of challenges for incoming SFPD chief George Gascon, who is expected to take over from Chief Fong in “a month or two.”
“We’re not asking them to lay off workers,” Board President David Chiu said. “We are asking those departments to scrutinize their budgets and be more efficient.”
Supervisors Carmen Chu and Bevan Dufty opposed the interim budget.
“There is a material impact,” Chu said. “We’re talking about closing a jail… we’re talking about 50 less firefighters and 12-15 less fire engines out there on a daily basis…we’re talking about 300 less [police] officers.”