By Alex Emslie
More than 100 concerned citizens, mental health providers, SRO hotel representatives, and clients of San Francisco's community behavioral health programs spoke to the Board of Supervisors yesterday at a Beilenson hearing, which the state requires of counties that slash public health services, decrying crippling cuts in the mayor's proposed budget.
Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed cutting the Department of Public Health's funding by close to $31 million in next year's budget currently before the Board of Supervisors. The board can choose to add funding back into departments that were cut before approving the final budget by the end of July.
“These are all services that we value,” DPH director Dr. Mitch Katz said following nearly four hours of public testimony. “We have to make difficult choices because of the state of the city's budget. We recognize that it is never desirable for us to make cuts.”
Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, said the city Budget Analyst's Office was examining cost savings within the police and fire departments to free up money for the DPH. “I, as budget chair, am working with my colleagues to prevent these cuts that you are concerned about. We have to find cost savings in our budget across other departments.”
Avalos added that cutting other departments wouldn't solve San Francisco's looming deficit for years to come, and that taxation must be part of San Francisco's budget solution. “If we don't find a significant amount of revenue, looking at progressive forms of taxation, we'll be in the same boat next year, but even worse, because we don't expect to have the authorization of federal money [that the city received last year] to help us out.”