Supes, Mayor Lee at odds over free City College

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday gave final approval for $9 million in funding to make City College of San Francisco free for all residents, but it appears unlikely the money will be used as intended.

The board voted 10-1, with Supervisor Mark Farrell as the lone voice of dissent, to appropriate the funds from a real estate transfer tax approved by voters in November for a plan by Supervisor Jane Kim to subsidize tuition for all city residents.

While the proposal to make City College free is popular with voters and board members, Mayor Ed Lee has said that he does not intend to spend all of the money right away due to changes in The City’s¬†budget outlook, including the failure of a sales tax on the November ballot.

In a budget realignment plan released in December, Lee proposed spending $500,000 on setting up the program in the current fiscal year and then $4.25 million in the next two fiscal years, for a total of $9 million over three years.

The mayor’s proposal includes plans for an advisory board to develop a program to fund City College “for those students unable to pay.”

While the board approved the funding on an initial vote last month, today’s vote was taken with four new board members. All four new supervisors voted in favor of the appropriation, including mayoral appointee Jeff Sheehy, who holds the District 8 seat left vacant when Scott Wiener was elected to the state senate.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who was elected in November to the District 9 seat vacated by termed out Supervisor David Campos, said there was still time for the mayor fund the program:

“This is one piece of legislation that we have before us that we have the power to move forward and to make a more equitable society. … It’s inspirational. It’s the type of legislation that will make a difference in people’s lives.”