SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — Legislation that would make City College of San Francisco tuition free for all city residents advanced today to the Board of Supervisors, but with the city’s budget in flux the plan’s future remains uncertain.
The board’s Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously today to forward a $9 million appropriation to pay for the first year of free city college tuition to the full board for a vote on Dec. 13, the last meeting of the year.
The vote remained in doubt for much of today’s hearing, however, as Supervisors Mark Farrell and Katy Tang initially argued that any decision on whether to fund the program should be postponed until after Dec. 14, when the mayor’s office is expected to present a revised budget.
The city budget is under review after voters rejected a sales tax on the November ballot that was expected to finance around $150 million
annually in homeless services and transportation improvements. The city is also preparing for the possibility that President-elect Donald Trump will
follow through on his threat to cut federal funding to cities with immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” policies such as San Francisco.
Tang and Farrell argued that the city college plan should not be voted on in isolation from the rest of the budget.
“I think we need to have this discussion about all these matters together,” Farrell said.
Only after City College interim Chancellor Susan Lamb said that postponing a vote until after the board returns from its winter break in mid-January would effectively postpone the start of the program to the spring semester did the supervisors relent, agreeing that the legislation should move forward to the full board.
The board voted 10-1 in July, with Farrell opposed, in support of the proposal by Supervisor Jane Kim to make City College free for city
residents. Voters earlier this month also approved an increase in the property transfer tax intended to pay for the program, but the revenue from
that tax goes into the general fund and must still be appropriated for the program.
Kim today argued that the board needed to keep its commitment to voters and use the money for its intended purpose.
“We made a commitment in July to the city of San Francisco and our residents that we would make City College free if the transfer tax passed, not if the transfer tax and the sales tax passed,” Kim said.