SF supervisors hear details of proposed cuts to youth department

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 14, 2024
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Maria Su, executive director of the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families, addressed a Board of Supervisors budget committee meeting June 13. Photo: Screengrab via SfGovTV
Maria Su, executive director of the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families, addressed a Board of Supervisors budget committee meeting June 13. Photo: Screengrab via SfGovTV

A committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors got the opportunity to learn more about the impending cuts to the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families as part of this year's budget proposed by Mayor London Breed.

The board's budget and appropriations committee, tasked with reviewing the mayor's spending plan she released in late May, held a daylong hearing June 13 at City Hall.

In the strictest sense, however, the nonprofits that receive funding from the department aren't getting cuts at all, according to Maria Su, the DCYF's executive director.

"In theory there are no cuts," Su said, acknowledging that the department's budget is being reduced. "Where one cycle of grant funding ended, another will start July 1. I just want to be clear there's nothing to base our notion of 'cut' from, however, there is a desire to ensure a continuity of services and continuing programming and opportunities for young people and families throughout our city."

Under Breed's proposal, DCYF will see a reduction in its budget of $24 million.

District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton didn't exactly agree with Su's way of putting things.

"I wish it was as simple to be able to share your theory of no reductions but I'll probably be here for a long time today because that's not how the community feels for sure," Walton said. "That some of these services won't be provided I know is gonna be harmful."

Indeed, Walton was there for a long time — the hearing, which started at 10 a.m., didn't wrap up till after 6 p.m. However, most of it concerned other city departments giving presentations about their upcoming budgets.

Walton is joined on the budget and appropriations committee by its chair, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan; its vice chair, gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman; District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar; and District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is president of the board and is running against Breed for her job this year. Peskin was absent June 13.

San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton spoke at the June 13 budget meeting. Photo: Screengrab via SFGovTV  

It's not a good budget year, everyone seems to agree, after the city has seen declining tax revenues as businesses leave the downtown core. Already expecting challenges, Breed last December asked city departments for 10% cuts across the board. In addition to the aforementioned deficit, Breed has said the shortfall could reach $1 billion by Fiscal Year 2028.

A budget has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors by August 1; Breed's spending plan came out May 31, proposing $15.9 billion in spending for Fiscal Year 2024-25.

Before the budget and appropriations committee, Su discussed how the cuts will affect DCYF. As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, the cuts to the department's budget will mean reduced funding to nonprofits serving youth, including three that often serve LGBTQ youth. LYRIC stated it was facing a 56% cut to its program budget over the next five years from the department and it's also trying to raise money to stave off the effects. The San Francisco LGBT Community Center stated it was also seeing a 56% cut to its youth services drop-in budget, or $312,012, and Larkin Street Youth Services had been seeing cuts in the amount of $495,225.

Su said, "The main takeaway here is to show in 2023-2024 DCYF's total budget was $212 million and now we're looking at a total DCYF budget of $188 million."

Most of that money — 88% — comes from property tax and general fund support, Su said, with a "small portion of state and federal grants."

There's been a decrease in five full-time staff members "over the past several years, because there were some vacant positions we deleted in the last funding cycle," Su said.

The department only operates 54% of its budget — the rest goes toward the San Francisco Unified School District, and the San Francisco Community College District, Su said.

The mayor's office recently granted the department $11 million to continue some of its request for proposal, or RFP, grants that nonprofits apply for. But that $11 million won't be enough to restore all the funding to the department's recipients.

"With the mayor's addition of $11 million, we are hoping to be able to allocate some of those funds to support more programs in the community," Su said.

Sherilyn Adams, a lesbian who is CEO of Larkin Street Youth Services, told the B.A.R. June 14 that the $11 million add-back actually restored the reduction in funding it had anticipated, at least as far as DCYF money is concerned.

"We did receive award notices yesterday from the mayor's augmentation," Adams said. "So the funding to our youth workforce and our youth leadership has been restored."

When asked if Larkin Street will still see some cuts, Adams said, "no, not from DCYF."

"I think there are unknowns across the workforce, there's a number of departments that fund workforce development for a number of populations for young people experiencing homelessness, for adults experiencing homelessness, for others that there are some cuts; they too have to have cuts," Adams said. "But we don't know what specific organizations are impacted by those."

The LGBT center declined a request for comment for this report June 14. LYRIC did not return a request for comment

Melgar voiced her concern about the reduction in funding.

"I'm worried about the kids," she said. "After the pandemic we know a lot of kids are behind. They missed out on a year of developmental progress, academically, but socially as well, and I worry regardless of the funding source — philanthropic, state and federal, or our own — the kids still feel it when there's no youth employment, no after-school programs, and we pay for it as a society in other ways. If you have a bunch of teenagers who are not employed needing income and have extra time on their hands, kids will be kids."

Chan agreed.

"We have to start really thinking about shifting the spending in the mayor's current proposed budget, and if we want to put our money where our mouth is, this is one of those departments and one of those moments we have to rethink," Chan said.

Mandelman didn't speak on DCYF specifically and did not return a request for comment by press time. No votes were taken, and ultimately the supervisors made it clear they can't restore funding to particular nonprofits.

"We 100% do not have the ability to open up the RFP process," Walton said. "Everyone should know, and I try to tell everyone all the time we don't have a say-so."

Chan clarified that "if there's additional funding, we can allocate those funds for programming that would go out for an RFP. But we don't have the ability to select any individual to be a service provider. It's just not what we do."

Montrell Dorsey, director of workforce development for Hunters Point Family, spoke during the public comment portion, which addressed all the departments heard at the hearing.

"I'm trying to understand how we say we're prioritizing children and prioritizing youth if we create budgets and situations that do the exact opposite," Dorsey said. "Everyone has stood here today and talked about not balancing the budget on the backs of our children and our youth, and I'm here to echo that. We ask you to stand with us as we work hard to create a safe and supportive San Francisco."

Updated, 6/14/24: This article has been updated with comments from Larkin Street Youth Services.

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