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News + PoliticsCity HallBreed budget: Deep cuts for social services, more money to the cops

Breed budget: Deep cuts for social services, more money to the cops

The mayor's priorities are no surprise—but will be a matter of some debate at the Board of Supes.


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From deep in the 362-page document that outlines and promotes Mayor London Breed’s proposed budget:

The Behavioral Health Services Division (BHS) continues to expand services to make treatment more accessible, while increasing efforts to connect people to care and help them remain in care.

From the actual numbers, in the budget tables:

A $56 million cut for behavioral health services this year, and another $55 million next year.

Some of that is, no doubt, accounting stuff, shifting some billing from the city to the state. But still: It’s not as if behavioral health “continues to expand” under this budget.

Now look at this one:

An extra $46 million for the police. And extra $32 million for the sheriff. The budget for the district attorney is up 4.4 percent, the public defender up 3.8 percent (a fairly modest increase considering that the case load is going to soar as the mayor, the DA, and the cops keep pushing to arrest more people—most of them for the crime of being high in public—almost all of whom will need a public defender).

This is the basic outline of the mayor’s budget: Reduce spending on social services, and increase law enforcement.

There is no discussion of new revenue sources that would seek to tax the very wealthy. In fact, the budget assumes that tax revenues will be down this year (a lot of which is due to pandemic-related losses in sales tax and property tax).

A lot of folks are, predictably, unhappy. Here’s what the mayor’s press release says:

Mayor Breed proposes fully funding the City’s encampment teams that are on pace this year to conduct significantly more encampment operations than previous years.  

From the Coalition on Homelessness:

Despite a 94% increase in family homelessness, and an increase in vehicularly housed people, Mayor Breed announced a budget that continues to include misguided investments in sweeps. Increased shelter and housing availability has led to a 13% decrease in street homelessness.

Thanks to November 2018 Prop C, which leverages state and federal funding for homelessness, the city has placed an average of 49 households into housing each week this fiscal year, compared to only 15 per week before Prop C funds were available during fiscal year 2017/2018. At the same time, since the start of 2024, the Healthy Street Operations Center has had only 460 placements in temporary shelters and fails to place unhoused people in shelters or housing, costing an estimated $20 million per year.

While there is a $18.7 million increase in the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, the Mayor is proposing $46.7 million in major increases to the funding of law enforcement including SFPD, Sheriffs, Probation, and Juvenile. But the Mayor fails to restore critical cuts to youth and family services, only adding to the crisis of family homelessness that San Francisco is facing.

From Sup. Connie Chan, who chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee that will oversee the budget:

As Chair of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations Committee, it is my priority to ensure we pass a city budget that prioritizes safe and clean streets for all San Franciscans. We must spend our taxpayer dollars wisely to advance these goals while protecting our most vulnerable residents. 

However, that is not the type of budgeting we have seen from this Administration. I am extremely concerned by the wasteful spending and inefficiencies we have seen, particularly in the past few months, in our city contract and departmental spending. My task is clear—we must comb through the Mayor’s proposed budget and advance a budget that prioritizes all San Franciscans—not just the demands of the wealthy few. It is not enough to simply announce spending and closing the budget deficit in press releases—with the crisis that San Francisco faces, we must deliver results. The Board of Supervisors budget process will evaluate the proposed spending and whether it fulfills the Administration’s promises.

Under the City Charter, the supes have a less than two months to hold hearings, consider changes, negotiate with the mayor, and deliver a final product, which is due Aug. 1. Most of the time, particularly in good years where no major cuts are on the table, the supes change only a tiny fraction of the budget.

This year, it’s going to be much more of a serious fight—and this year, the board president, Sup. Aaron Peskin, is challenging Breed in a contentious mayor’s race.

Full disclosure: My son and daughter are working on the Peskin for Mayor campaign.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


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