Supervisor Carmen Chu: City Budget, Help for Business
City Healthcare Costs
Nationwide, both the private and public sectors are seeing steady and dramatic increases in health-care costs. The Health Service System of the City and County of San Francisco (HSS) provides health-care benefits for current and retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco Community College District, and Municipal Executives. For the current fiscal year the cost to cover dental, vision, health and other benefits for this pool of 106,000 people was nearly $700 million.
It is the responsibility of the Health Service System (HSS) to administer health, dental, vision and other benefits that may be available to City and County employees, such as life and disability insurance. The Health Service Board (HSB) oversees the HSS and consists of seven members. Four of the Board members are elected by the employees (active and retired) who receive benefits. Two Board members are appointed by the mayor, and I serve as the SF Board of Supervisors' representative.
Through the rate setting process, the HSB was able to reduce proposed medical plan premiums by $17 million. The reduction in rates initially proposed by medical plan vendors was achieved primarily through a combination of plan design changes and the transition to a calendar-based plan year. Medical plan vendors began the annual negotiations process by proposing significant rate increases, ranging from 6.9 percent to 20.3 percent. Because total annual premiums paid to insured plans total nearly $660 million, these increases would have had a significant negative impact on the city budget.
Significantly, the HSB also allocated $5 million toward a one-time rate stabilization effort. The action is intended to stabilize membership in the Blue Shield plan. Of note, the HSB has directed the HSS to create Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) within Blue Shield, which improve coordination of care, decrease costs and improve outcomes.
Upcoming Budget Town Hall Meeting
Our office will be joining with the mayor and District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd in hosting a budget Town Hall Meeting for Districts 4 and 7 on Saturday, April 14, from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., at the SF Zoo's Great Hall. The meeting serves as an opportunity for you to ask questions and voice your opinions about the city's budget for fiscal years 2012 - 2014. This is the first year that all departments will have to balance their budgets on a two-year timeline.
The Town Hall Meeting schedule, along with other budget information, is available at www.sfgov.org/budget. You can also access live video streaming of the meetings through that website.
For more information, contact our office at (415) 554-7460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small Business Assistance
Recently, I sponsored legislation to provide assistance to small businesses seeking to replace their store awnings. Under the legislation, all permits issued to small business (100 employees or less) during Small Business Month in May will be waived.
Additionally, we are encouraging businesses to help promote public safety along our commercial corridors, and all electrical permits associated with pedestrian-level lighting will also be waived during the month of May.
We hope these two incentives will provide small businesses with the opportunity to contribute to vibrant and safe merchant corridors throughout the City. The legislation is currently making its way through the city's approval process. Please contact our office with any questions or concerns.
Eating/Drinking Establishment Permitting Revisions
I have co-sponsored legislation that would make it easier for eating and drinking establishments to understand and make their way through the City's permitting process when applying for business permits, especially restaurant permits.
We have heard how the process is onerous and difficult to understand. Not only does that pose a problem for entrepreneurs, but also for city staff to administer. Under the City's current codes, there are 13 different possible permits for eating and drinking establishments. Each permit has different restrictions on businesses, such as whether they can heat food, serve food to customers at the table or at the ordering counter, the number of seats allowed (if at all), and even requiring that some businesses serve food in disposable wrappers or containers.
The proposed legislation seeks to simplify the permits so that it is both easier to understand and administer. Primarily, the 13 categories would be consolidated to three categories called: Restaurant, Restaurant-Limited (no alcohol allowed on site), and Bar. By reducing the number of categories, merchants will have an easier time understanding which regulations apply to their establishment and be given more flexibility on how to run their business so that it is more responsive to customers. At the same time, it continues to control the sale of alcohol and other existing controls on fast food or other chain stores to preserve each neighborhood's unique character.
Our commercial corridors and small businesses are important components of our community, and this legislation will make it easier for these businesses to thrive in our neighborhood.
Supervisor Carmen Chu represents District 4 on the Board of Supervisors and can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or email@example.com.