San Francisco November 2016

San Francisco
November 2016

Ballot analysis and recommendations

Overview chevron_right Prop I
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Prop I

Dignity Fund

Funding for Seniors and Adults With Disabilities

Establishes a special $38 million fund to support services for seniors and adults with disabilities; mandates an annual increase to the amount through 2026–27, after which the amount would fluctuate with the city’s discretionary budget.

Vote NO

What the Measure Would Do

Proposition I is a charter amendment that would establish a fund to support services for seniors, veterans, adults with disabilities and adults living with chronic and life-threatening health conditions. The city would be required to contribute $38 million to the fund for fiscal year 2016–2017, an amount that would increase by $6 million for fiscal year 2017–2018 and subsequently increase by $3 million a year for the next nine years until the annual contribution reached $68 million in fiscal year 2026–2027. The fund would continue at that amount, adjusted annually for changes in aggregate discretionary city revenues, for the next 10 years until fiscal year 2036–2037. Growth in this baseline support could be suspended but not reversed if the city’s projected budget deficit exceeded $200 million. Funds unspent in one year would carry over to the next.

Funds would be dedicated to purposes that serve seniors and adults with disabilities, including home- and community-based long-term care, food and nutrition programs, caregiver education and support, community and service centers, and counseling and legal services programs. Many of these programs are provided by nonprofit organizations working under contract with the city.

This measure would also change the name of the Department on Aging to “the Department of Aging and Adult Services” and update the responsibilities of the Department and its appointed citizen Commission. Prop I would require the Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) to conduct a four-year planning process for the programs it funds. DAAS would also have to create a Community Needs Assessment and a Services and Allocation Plan, both of which would be approved by the Board of Supervisors. DAAS would also be required to establish a new 11-member oversight and advisory committee to oversee administration of the fund, as well as a service-provider working group to advise on funding priorities, planning, evaluation and policy development. Finally, this measure would add language to the City Charter establishing social and geographical equity as a guiding principle for DAAS in how it spends funds.

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The Backstory

This ballot measure was developed by a coalition of nonprofit and community groups, many of which provide services to seniors and disabled adults in San Francisco. The Dignity Fund Coalition projects that the number of San Francisco residents over the age of 65 will increase by 100,000 people in the next 15 years, growing from 20 percent of the city’s population to 30 percent. The proponents of this measure want to seize on today’s atmosphere of broad voter support for senior services and programs for the disabled in order to guarantee that the city’s contribution to services for these groups keeps pace with population growth.

In fiscal year 2015–2016, the portion of the General Fund dedicated specifically to services for seniors and adults with disabilities was $32 million. The city’s actual investment in seniors’ and disabled adults’ quality of life is much higher. San Francisco seniors and disabled adults are served by the full spectrum of public goods that the city budget funds for all citizens, and many city services — like transit, education and affordable housing — are subsidized for seniors and the disabled.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9 to 2 to place this measure on the ballot in San Francisco. The measure requires a simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) to pass.

Pros

  • The measure would guarantee an increase in General Fund support for a growing segment of the population with distinctive needs. Increasing funding for care and services that help seniors stay in their homes (known as “aging in place”) could lower public costs in the long term.

  • The measure would increase funding in a gradual and predictable manner. It includes provisions for suspending increases in deficit years and allowing the level of funding to fluctuate with the economy over the long term.

  • The measure would introduce socioeconomic and geographic equity metrics into the distribution of funds for senior services.

Cons

  • This measure is a set-aside, which means it would reduce the amount of the city’s General Fund budget that is discretionary and can be allocated by elected officials in the annual budget process. This could lock in spending priorities that may not make sense over the long term.

  • The measure would mandate an increased level of spending without introducing a new revenue source.

  • Establishing a set-aside for this purpose is not necessary because senior services and services for adults with disabilities are well represented in the annual legislative budget process.

  • This measure would create several new oversight and advisory committees for DAAS, which could result in increased departmental costs. Furthermore, detailed specification of committees and working groups does not belong in the City Charter, where they can only be changed by another vote of the public.

SPUR’S Recommendation

Prop I seeks to fund a real need — important services for seniors and adults with disabilities — but there is no reason that funding this need cannot go through the regular legislative budgeting process, which considers all citizens’ needs together. Wherever possible, elected officials should be allowed to allocate resources according to the greatest needs year by year, balancing out the competing demands on the finite amount of money available in the General Fund budget. Asking voters to establish a preset amount for a particular service does not give the full picture; voters cannot know which other needs may receive less funding as a result. And locking this funding in ignores the fact that changes occur in demographics, service needs and delivery methods.

SPUR believes set-asides should only be deployed as a funding tool for certain rare circumstances — for example, when particular purposes are chronically underfunded and/or don’t have a voice in the normal budget process. Thanks to excellent advocates like the coalition that has backed this measure, the needs of seniors and adults with disabilities have been well represented and adequately funded to date, and there’s no reason to anticipate that they won’t be in the future.

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