City departments fail to meet mayor’s demand to trim budgets 

Elected officials in San Francisco have balked at cutting millions from department budgets, as ordered by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Earlier this year, when the budget shortfall was estimated at $522 million, Newsom asked city departments to shave 20 percent of their spending. The deficit has since been revised to $483 million.

While most city departments — including the Recreation and Park, Public Works and Police departments — have responded with proposals to reduce spending by 20 percent, The City’s elected leaders are nowhere near their targets, and in some cases are asking for more money, according to city budget documents.

The mayor is seeking $230 million in savings from departments’ cuts, said Greg Wagner, Newsom’s budget director.

In addition to cuts, Newsom is working to renegotiate contracts with city workers, seeking labor concessions and looking for ways for departments to increase revenue.

The elected official that is farthest from Newsom’s goal is Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Adachi was asked to reduce his department’s spending by $4.6 million, but he’s asking for a $1.7 million increase next year, according to budget records.

The Public Defender’s Office, however, said it may lose almost five positions through attrition and staff adjustments, which could save $2.6 million.

The District Attorney’s Office was asked to cut $6.3 million in spending. However, the district attorney turned in a budget with only $460,000 in cuts, said department spokeswoman Erica Derryck.

She said the office is already short 34 people, the bulk of that being prosecutors.

More cuts to the budget would be devastating, as evidenced by the scandal at the crime lab, which has been understaffed and underfunded, Derryck said.

“We are as lean as we possibly can be,” Derryck said. “There comes a point where you cannot withstand any further cuts without jeopardizing public safety, and that’s the harsh reality.”

The mayor asked the City Attorney’s Office to cut $1.6 million from its budget. Jack Song, spokesman for the city attorney, said the office is still “in negotiations” with the Mayor’s Office.

The Board of Supervisors was asked to cut $1.6 million from its budget, but it’s only cutting $349,316, said Angela Calvillo, clerk of the board. She defended the budget proposal, saying the bulk of the board’s spending cannot be touched, such as salaries. Supervisors are trying to generate revenue and absorb expenses where they can, Calvillo said. She said she plans to provide a revised budget figure that would realize more savings.

“Numbers are a moving target and we are looking for new, creative ways to save money between here and June,” Calvillo said.

The mayor has until June 1 to submit a balanced budget to the Board of Supervisors. If the departments fail to pull their weight, the Mayor’s Office will have to make deeper cuts in other places, Wagner said.

“We appreciate that some elected officials would like larger budgets and more staff, but the reality of the budget deficit is that we all have to find major savings,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Newsom. “Refusing to step up and absorb one’s share of cuts just means we’ll have to make even deeper cuts to vital services.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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