The City could help the San Francisco Unified School District avoid hundreds of layoffs, but Mayor Ed Lee has indicated that any help would come with strings attached.
Facing budget shortfalls and a sizable drop in state funding over the next two years, the Board of Education voted last week to issue 485 pink slips to teachers and staff. The mayor said last week he wants The City to help “as much as we can,” but first he’d like a status update on surplus property no longer used for school functions and whether the district derives enough revenue from the sites.
School officials expect up to $6 million could be available to backfill the district’s budget, although the mayor said just how much is yet to be decided.
“We can’t have those school sites sit vacant and not usable,” Lee said, adding that the district should consider going to the private sector for help managing the resources.
According to the district, six sites are now officially declared surplus property within its system and two are vacant. Lee has previously suggested that a site near Mission and 16th Streets would be ideal for workforce housing for teachers and police officers.
But school board members characterized the situation as a complex one.
“I don’t think anybody believes selling property is a good way to finance programs,” said member Jill Wynns. “It’s just poor budgeting to sell property for operating expenses.”
Wynns said a property on Font Boulevard near San Francisco State University has been mentioned by the Mayor’s Office and is one of the few the board is willing to sell.
Board President Norman Yee said conversations have only begun and he’s open to ideas on how to better manage the sites. But Yee said the district should avoid acting hastily, in case there is a sudden future surge in The City’s student population.
“Some of the property we have, we know we want to keep it for that purpose,” Yee said. “It’s a lot easier to sell something than it is to create new buildings.”