Jake McGoldrick: We Must have Earlier Review of City's Budget
Over the last few weeks, I have introduced a package of reforms designed to remake the City's budget process by increasing citizen participation, maximizing efficiency in City departments and reallocating budget resources to those most in need. The package would require the mayor to submit a budget two months earlier than currently, would require regular performance audits of City departments and would call for increased citizen participation in the budget review process.
In my view, the current budget process severely limits effective participation in the budget by the public and the SF Board of Supervisors. Although the charter requires the board to review the budget to ensure that the departments are meeting their missions in the most effective and efficient way possible, we currently have only one month in which to review the entire budget. It simply is not feasible for the board to effectively scrutinize a $4.4 billion budget covering more than 50 departments during that period of time. For this reason, the linchpin of my budget reform package is a requirement that the mayor submit a budget to the board by April 1, beginning next year. This will give members of the board the time they need to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to the public.
I also have proposed changes in the board's own budget review processes in several areas:
· more thorough scrutiny by the board's subject area committees of each City department's budget;
· increased fiscal and policy analysis of the budget by the budget analyst and the Office of Legislative Analyst;
· increased performance audits of departments by the budget analyst so supervisors will have the information they need for effective review of each department.
During this time of economic downturn, it has become even more important that the Board of Supervisors dedicate the time and resources necessary to get a handle on this city's budget. The people of San Francisco deserve a full and meaningful review of the policy considerations underlying department budgets, including the measures used to gauge department performance. It is the board's responsibility to provide that review. Only when we begin to review the budget at a deeper level will we be able to ensure that public money is being spent wisely.
My office has also proposed that there be a full and meaningful opportunity for public review and comment upon the mayor's proposed budget before official action by the Board of Supervisors or its committees.
It is crucial that the public have an opportunity to study and comment on the budget prior to action by the board. This is the only way the board will have the benefit of the informed opinion of the many budget experts that make up our electorate. That means public hearings after the mayor submits his budget.
While the Town Hall meetings that took place last year in each district were helpful, they will be even more helpful when they take place after the mayor has sent his or her budget to the board.
With district elections in place, supervisors should play an even greater role in reviewing the budget in detail. The people of the neighborhoods expect that their priorities will have a place in the city's budget.
Many neighborhoods previously have been neglected during the budget process. It is up to the district supervisors to look out for the needs of the residents of our City, and these budget reforms are designed to make it more likely that we will be able to fulfill these duties. I am confident that with these reforms in place, the board will be able to take on their full responsibility to review the budget.
With more time to consider the budget, the board will be able to fully implement the mission-based budget process envisioned by the Charter. Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I also believe this reform will allow the City to eventually move to a zero-based budgeting process through which departments will justify every dollar they spend.
Jake McGoldrick is a San Francisco supervisor who represents the Richmond District.