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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Show 'Em What They Lost: Controller Issues Report Detailing How Much State Will Vacuum Away From S.F.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 4:59 PM

click to enlarge money_vacuum.jpg
As promised, city controller Ben Rosenfeld this afternoon released a report detailing the hit San Francisco will take as a result of state borrowing, filching, and other creative accounting tactics. What, you were expecting good news? How about this: Hundreds of Muni vehicles didn't crash today.

As for the city's finances, well, it's bad. Here's the breakdown as explained to SF Weekly by deputy city controller Monique Zmuda (any forthcoming errors are solely our own).

All told, the city is going to have the rug pulled out from under it to the tune of $146 million. Not to be flip, but that may sound worse than it really is:

Of that $146 million, $18.7 million was yanked from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency ($10 million less than the state agency initially reported to us) . Zmuda is optimistic this money can be "financed" (i.e. we can borrow to make up the loss). Also, this grab may not occur, as the head of the state redevelopment agency has threatened a lawsuit to halt it.

Meanwhile, $91 million more in Prop. 1A property tax monies will be borrowed by the state -- and must be repaid, with interest, within three years according to the California constitution. This loss can be made up through borrowing as well. Since the state is mandated to repay with interest, Zmuda doesn't expect San Francisco (or other municipalities) to lose any money on the deal ("it should be a wash," she says).

So, that's the "good" news. Here's the bad. State payments of $19.8 million to the Office of Public Health, $16.1 million to the Human Services Agency, and half a million bucks in Public Safety funds will be curtailed -- and there's no option to "finance" this. So, in a nutshell, there's a $36.4 million hole in the city budget Mayor Gavin Newsom signed today, and only an $18 million contingency fund.

How to make up that shortfall is the $18.4 million question, and it may be a loser either way for Newsom. You can formulate a budget that's best for the city or one that's best for a man running for governor, but it'd be an awesome feat to do both simultaneously.

Fortunately for the mayor, he'll have time to think about this. Uncertainties at every level make these numbers "preliminary," so the controller will hand an updated report to the mayor and Board of Supervisors by Sept. 14. From then, Newsom will have 21 days to retool the city's budget. Once he submits his plan, the supes have another 45 days to tinker with it.

Whew! Nothin' but blue skies ahead.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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