Friday, August 14, 2009
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd Speaks at the Chamber of Commerce
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd addressed the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce recently, and reviewed the City’s fiscal status and future financial challenges with San Francisco business leaders.
Elsbernd was pleased that the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors were able to reach a consensus for a balanced FY 2009-2010 City budget last week, even though the budget may have to be revised again (and, perhaps, again) warranting further cuts in every City department if a revision is needed. The Supervisor cited several reasons for future budget revisions including revenue cuts from the State, lower local sales and hotel tax collections, and the growing number of Proposition 8 appeals for reductions in local property tax assessments.
Of continuing concern to the Supervisor is the growing pension and healthcare liability costs for the City's employees, present and retired. The City’s contribution to the employee pension fund grew by $80 million in this year’s budget--although it had been zero for a number of years when the market was robust--as the City is obligated to make up any losses incurred to the fund. Elsbernd questioned the political will to make any substantive changes in the pension program and called it a ‘third rail’ of local politics.
City workers that are currently employed receive 2% of their salary for every year of service up to 30 years, while police receive 3% of their salary per year up to 30 years. Elsbernd wasn’t sure what percentage of the entire City budget ($6.5 billion) went to pay for active and retired employees’ pensions and healthcare costs. He did cite the passage of Proposition B last year as the first step in reigning in the costs of healthcare coverage for City employees (Prop. B lengthened the amount of time employees have to work to gain 100% medical coverage for life upon retirement). The Supervisor suggested the business community, if it wanted to make changes in the City’s pension program, would need to collect the necessary amount of signatures and take a reform measure to the ballot.
Jim Lazarus with the Chamber mentioned the damaging story about overtime costs and paid comp time, which is something that he thought had to be changed in future city labor contract negotiations. Lazarus also lamented that every opportunity the City has to contract out its services, the Board of Supervisors (at the request of employee unions) denies the requests. As such, the City will pay $30 million more for security and other services in FY 2009-2010 due to the Board of Supervisors’ refusal to contract out to the private sector.
Supervisor Elsbernd stated his support for the Mid-Market ARTS ordinance, and the measure to allow for Candlestick Park to sell its naming rights, both of which will appear on the November ballot. He is opposing the other three measures on the ballot: a charter amendment to create a 2 year budget and a 5 year financial plan; a charter amendment to remove the cap on the number of aides a Supervisor can have on staff (currently they are limited to 2); and, an ordinance that prohibits advertising on most City property .