Better Budget

Pensions, infrastructure and public health trimmed in 3rd year of San Francisco deficits

Matthew Santolla, SF Public Press — Aug 31 2011 - 11:58am

City estimates that costs are rising three times faster than tax revenues

Police and firefighter unions will pay more out of pocket toward their pensions. Disease prevention programs and street beautification will be scaled back. At least $37 million in capital projects will be added to a growing deferred maintenance backlog. Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts approved in July forestalled a fiscal day of reckoning for San Francisco, a city that for three years has, like hundreds of local governments across the country, struggled to stay solvent in response to a fluctuating tax base and rising labor costs. City staff estimate that costs are rising three times faster than tax revenues.

San Francisco abounds in digital open-government tools, though many appeal only to hackers

Matthew Santolla, SF Public Press — Aug 22 2011 - 3:03pm

Digital tools aim at increasing access to government information

This story appeared in the fall print edition and was part of the Building a Better Budget package of stories.

Squeezed to the point of cutting vital social services and deferring maintenance, local governments and nonprofit groups are turning to the Internet and other digital tools to increase transparency. Perched on the edge of Silicon Valley, San Francisco can’t help but be a hotbed of this good-government “hactivism.”

Facing cuts, nonprofits forced to lobby City Hall to save immigration program

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Aug 17 2011 - 4:33pm

Year after year, private organizations strategize and line up clients to push for last-minute ‘add-backs’

For clients at Self-Help for the Elderly, the citizenship classes taught by volunteer instructor Joanne Lee are a perfect fit: Classes are held at a convenient Chinatown location, senior clientele are easily accommodated and the material is taught in both English and Chinese. It has worked out well for students Sammie Xu, 69, and Nancy Zhang, 64, Chinese immigrants who are studying for their naturalization exam. Before enrolling in classes at the social services agency, the married couple tried others in which teachers only provided instruction books without guidance or taught classes only in English.

Millions in savings unclaimed; after audits, Muni revealed $20 million excess overtime

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Aug 15 2011 - 4:25pm

UPDATE 8/19/11: Hear reporter Angela Hart discuss her story with KQED News, a Public Press reporting partner (fast-forward to second item)

San Francisco could have saved at least $33.5 million over the last two years’ budgets if departments, commissions and contractors had acted on advice from regular audits pointing out government waste and inefficiencies. The savings, much of it coming out of transit and police employee overtime, could have reduced the need to cut some vital services this summer as local government agencies faced $380 million in projected deficits over the next year.

Some of the audits produced by a unit of the controller’s office have been implemented swiftly. Yet as many as 40 audit reports out of 70 performed since 2009 linger officially unresolved. The problem is, there’s no recourse if departments choose to ignore auditors. And after two years, the office is not required to follow up on the reports, which could explain why 14 additional audits highlighting potential savings of $700,000 were not indicated on a list produced by the controller’s office.

San Francisco ponders participatory budgeting

Michael Levitin, SF Public Press — Aug 10 2011 - 2:21pm

Can process designed to engage community result in smarter spending?

This story appeared in the fall print edition and was part of the Building a Better Budget package of stories.

When Mayor Ed Lee ventured across San Francisco’s 11 districts this spring talking with residents about what to cut and what to save from the budget, he won praise for opening what some called a new era in fiscal discourse: giving people a more direct say about where their money is spent. But what if, rather than the mayor in the driver’s seat, it was the community itself that presented, weighed and voted on district budgets?

Syndicate content