June 1, 2013 / 12:11 AM / 5 years ago

Strong revenue helps close deficits in San Francisco budget plan

SAN FRANCISCO, May 31 (Reuters) - San Francisco’s mayor proposed a two-year city budget plan on Friday that would close deficits of $124 million in the next fiscal year and $256 million the following year and seize on strengthening revenue to build reserves totaling 4 percent of general fund revenue.

Mayor Edwin Lee proposed closing the shortfalls with a combination of one-time and ongoing savings, including from health and pension spending, department consolidations and better-than-expected revenue propelled primarily by rising payroll and property tax receipts.

San Francisco’s high-technology companies have blossomed since the financial crisis, driving up property prices and adding to payrolls across the city.

Lee noted in his budget report that San Francisco’s unemployment rate is well below both the U.S. national jobless rate and California’s unemployment rate, while 35 tower cranes are at work on construction projects across the city. Its important tourism is also going strong, he said.

“I am delivering this budget as San Francisco’s economy is recovering, growing and moving in the right direction,” Lee said. “San Franciscans are getting back to work: our unemployment rate has dropped from 9.6 percent in January 2011 to 5.4 percent last month.”

His proposed fiscal 2013-14 budget totals $7.9 billion, a $561.6 million - or 7.6 percent - increase from the current fiscal 2012-13 budget.

Under Lee’s plan, the city’s general fund would account for $3.9 billion of the total budget, a $456.5 million - or 13.1 percent - increase from the current fiscal year.

Lee proposed to add $30 million over the next two years to reserves, which would give San Francisco $157 million in rainy day and budget stabilization funds by the end of its 2014-15 fiscal year.

The plan does not include cuts to services and proposes funding for about 27,900 city employees, which would mark 3.7 percent growth in the city’s payroll from hiring additional police officers, firefighters and vehicle-repair workers.

The plan also anticipates additional employees for the city’s public health department and human services agency to handle increased caseloads from the implementation of the 2010 U.S. healthcare law.

Lee’s plan calls for spending $177 million in capital projects over the next two years and would fund economic development initiatives to aid small businesses and help local firms form business ties in Latin America and Asia.

The plan will go to the city’s board of supervisors for review.

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