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Mayor seeks to limit supes budget authority

December 2, 2015

By Tim Redmond

Proposal would take $377 million out of the annual review process

DECEMBER 2, 2015 — Along with a critical vote on the new jail, the SF Supes Budget and Finance Committee will decide today whether 32 city departments should be exempt from annual budget review by the board.

At issue is $377 million in spending that the mayor would prefer to put into “two-year” budgets – which would mean the supervisors (and the public) would lose an annual opportunity to weigh in on how much those agencies are spending and whether the results are consistent with the cost.

According to the Budget Analyst, Harvey Rose:

One of the main disadvantages of the fixed two‐year budget cycle is that it reduces the Board of Supervisors’ budgetary authority. The budget approval process is one of the Board of Supervisors main tools under the Charter to set City policy. Other disadvantages of the fixed two‐year budget include difficulties in forecasting revenues and expenditures, and in incorporating economic and environmental changes.

Supporters of the two-year fixed budget say that it allows for better long-term planning, which makes a certain amount of sense. On the other hand, Rose points out, there’s a way to fix that: Two-year “rolling” budgets, that require annual updates and approve from the board:

Under two‐year rolling budgets, the Board of Supervisors has annual appropriation authority. The Board of Supervisors has appropriation authority over each year of the two‐year rolling budget in the first fiscal year, and retains appropriation authority over the second year of the two‐year rolling budget in the following fiscal year.1 Under two‐year fixed budgets, the Board of Supervisors only has appropriation authority every other year.

Among the departments that would escape annual oversight: The district attorney, city attorney, Planning Department, controller, Superior Court, Department of Elections – and the mayor

But we’re talking about a huge amount of money here – and a big shift in the balance of power. Worth thinking about… (more)

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