San Francisco’s Budget: How It Works and What You Need to Know

San Francisco city skyline. Photo courtesy of Michael Victor / The 415 Guy

How San Francisco’s Budget Works


In a normal year, the City’s budget process begins in December and concludes by August 1. This year is not normal. The COVID-19 emergency and the economic impacts that followed made the future of the City’s finances uncertain during the spring when key figures are being finalized.

Budgeting Process

Every year, the City adopts a budget for the next two years. That means that this year, the Mayor has proposed a budget for both Fiscal Years (FYs) 2020–2021 and 2021–2022. We do that in order to allow for Departments to have an idea of what funding will be there next year and to prepare accordingly. That also means that each year we are adjusting from the previously passed budget for the current year.

Total Budget vs. General Fund — Alike, but not the Same

Another important distinction is to understand the difference between the General Fund and spending that is not a part of the General Fund. Essentially, the General Fund is the money that the Mayor and the Board of Supervisor have control over spending. While you hear that San Francisco has a $13 billion budget, only $6.2 billion of that is in the General Fund.

Mayor Breed’s Proposed Budget for FY 2020–2021 and 2021–2022

Last week, Mayor Breed announced her two-year budget proposal, which includes new investments to prioritize racial equity and reinvest in the African-American community, continue making progress on homelessness and behavioral health, and maintain the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget proposal makes these important investments while also balancing the two-year $1.5 billion deficit with a responsible use of reserves, preserving jobs and with minimal impact to City services.

How We Closed the Budget Deficit

A $1.5 billion deficit is unprecedented in recent history, and balancing our budget requires a few different assumptions to make that happen. These assumptions include a new revenue measure and spending reductions.

Major Investments and Focus of this Budget

Redirecting Funding to the African American Community and Prioritizing Equity

The Mayor’s proposed budget acknowledges the structural inequities impacting the city’s African American community, resulting from generations of disinvestment. The proposed budget redirects $120 million in funds over two years from law enforcement towards efforts to repair the legacy of racially disparate policies on health, housing, and economic outcomes for African Americans.

  • $15 million in one-time funding for the San Francisco Unified School District to support San Francisco’s public school students most disparately impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting school closures.
  • $12.5 million to extend stipend programs for SFUSD teachers in high turnover schools and for educators in the City’s early care and education system.
  • $5.5 million over the two years to extend the Opportunities for All (OFA) pilot, a youth internship program initiated in last year’s budget.
  • $4 million over two years to be distributed by the Office of Racial Equity within the Human Rights Commission, to maintain and prioritize ongoing community involvement and responsive programming.

Homelessness and Mental Health

To continue to address the homelessness crisis and help people suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders, Mayor Breed’s proposed budget includes funding to maintain investments in behavioral health beds, rental assistance and subsidy programs, and other critical mental health and homelessness programming. The proposed budget also makes new investments to pilot a new crisis response model and seeds funding for the Office of Coordinated Care in the Department of Public Health.

COVID-19 Ongoing Response and Recovery

In total, the Mayor’s proposed budget allocates $446.1 million to ensure the City has the financial resources to meet the citywide priorities set forth by the COVID-19 Command Center, the centralized emergency operations center coordinating the response across City departments. The Mayor’s budget assumes the City’s General Fund will support $93 million of that total amount, and that the remaining amount will be covered through federal support like FEMA and the CARES Act.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a running list of questions we’ve heard since the Mayor’s budget was released last Friday. If you have a question you’d like answered, you can email it to and we’ll do our best to answer it here.

Watch Mayor Breed’s budget announcement speech.



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London Breed

London Breed

45th Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco