San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today asked the heads of all city departments to trim their budgets by 20 percent, and prepare to cut an additional 10 percent, after his office projected a $522.2 million general fund deficit for the coming fiscal year.

The news from the mayor’s budget office means potentially severe cutbacks to services, as well as layoffs, though Newsom today pledged to protect public safety.

“We’re going to hold the line on police and fire,” Newsom spokesman Joe Arellano said.
“We are looking at a gaping hole in our budget that is only going to be fixed with a real examination of our current way of providing services,” he said.

Newsom told the departments to prepare for an additional 10-percent cut as a contingency plan, amid uncertainty about revenue the city will generate and about future cuts at the state level.

On Wednesday, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office projected a $20.7 billion state budget deficit for fiscal year 2010-11.

“And we can’t count on the help that we had last year,” Arellano said. He was referring to the more than $62 million in federal stimulus money that helped trim a $575 million deficit this summer, a scenario that will likely not be repeated next year.

Despite steep cuts to many city departments and hundreds of layoffs earlier this year, officials said after the approval of a $6.6 billion budget that core city services had been preserved.

“We were cut to the bone then,” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said earlier today, before the exact deficit figures were released.

“At this point, we don’t have anything to cut but bone,” Chiu said. “It’s going to be the most challenging budget situation that anyone has ever seen (in San Francisco).”

The mayor can still approve or reject individual cuts, so the likelihood that every department will actually lose 20 to 30 percent of their budget is slim. The cuts, which would go into effect July 1, would also require the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

Layoffs could begin sooner, according to Arellano.

The San Francisco Police Department would have to find a way to trim almost $47 million under the targeted 30-percent budget reduction.

The Department of Public Health, with the city’s largest budget, would face $102 million in cuts.

Reducing the Fire Department’s budget by 30 percent would incur more than $13 million in cuts; the Sheriff’s Department would face almost $40 million in cuts and the Human Services Agency more than $28 million.

Other departments such as the juvenile and adult probation departments, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, and Recreation and Parks would face several million dollars each in cuts. Cuts would also affect the Fine Arts Museum, Asian Art Museum and Academy of Sciences.

“We’re going to have to have everything on the table, and get creative,” Arellano said.
For his part, Chiu said he would fight to protect “essential, core services” such as police, fire and health services to the city’s most vulnerable, including seniors, the homeless and the mentally ill.

But even today’s proposed solutions, along with ongoing mid-year cuts, will still leave the city with a nearly $120 million deficit heading into the next fiscal year, according to Budget Director Greg Wagner.

“That’s what we’ve got to figure out,” Wagner said.

“Every year we come up with solutions that are in addition to the department targets,” said Wagner. “And that’s what we’re going to have to do again this year.”

The city is also facing a revised budget deficit, of $53 million, for the current year that must be resolved in the coming weeks.

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