SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - San Francisco Mayor London Breed unveiled her budget proposal on Wednesday, laying out the city's spending priorities for the next two years as it faces a massive $780 million deficit.
Breed said the city is looking at cost-cutting and hopes to save money where she can while still prioritizing public safety, economic development, and tackling the city's homeless and drug crises.
"This was a very, very difficult budget for us," Breed said.
Breed's proposed budget includes spending an estimated $14.6 billion each year, a record high, for the next two years. The budget includes plans to fund 220 new police officers over the two-year period.
"The accountability is coming and this is why we are making investments in our police department," Breed said.
The San Francisco Police Department is currently about 600 officers below standard operating levels, San Francisco's Police Chief Bill Scott said. The new officers will go to patrolling the streets and combating rampant drug use.
"As we get new officer into the department, one of the things we have to do is to continue to focus on the open-air drug markets. They have to be disrupted," Scott said.
The mayor's budget also prioritizes restoring the city's downtown and the economic recovery.
Breed said the city has to re-imagine what it could do in the past and work with the current hurdles to fill vacant office and retail spaces, and create a thriving downtown. To achieve this, the mayor is proposing a delay for some scheduled tax increases, and implementing tax incentives to encourage new businesses to open their doors and stay in San Francisco.
Breed said the new proposed budget "is about change."
"This budget is about thinking differently," she added. "We know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result."
When it comes to combating the fentanyl crisis, Breed said the city will have some hard choices: forcing treatment for those who need it, and harsher consequences for those who continue to deal the deadly drug.
The budget proposal reallocates funds for homelessness to tackle the most urgent need and includes funding for an additional 600 new shelter beds.
"Not everyone is going to be happy about the decision I made to take resources that are not being used and spend them on people we know need help and support right now," Breed said.
Critics say the mayor's budget proposal is essentially taking money from families facing homelessness and giving it to single adults.
"[Forty million dollars] is being taken from families and youth, literally from the mouths of babes who are desperate for housing, and moving it over to shelter single adults," said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. "We really don't appreciate pitting the populations against each other."
The Mayor's budget proposal now goes to the Board of Supervisors, which has an August 1 deadline to finalize the budget.