The Constitution of the State of California requires all cities to adopt a balanced budget. Revenues for the City and County of San Francisco come from local taxes: property, business sales, utility, and hotel; licensing fees; state and federal subventions; and revenue-generating departments. Budget documents are one of the best places to start for understanding how the City functions.
The budget fiscal year for San Francisco is July 1 through June 30 [for example: July 1, 2003-June 30, 2004].
Official Budget Documents are available in print at the Government Information Center (GIC). Many are also online via the City Controller's Office Web site, which has A Guide to San Francisco's Budget Process, plus other information about City revenues and expenditures. Web sites of the Budget and legislative Analyst and Budget Information from the Budget Committee of the Board of Supervisors, as well as City department Web sites, are also good places to check for budget info.
Generally, the San Francisco budget begins with the Mayor's Preliminary Budget and is followed by the Mayor's Proposed Budget, also known as the "Mayor's Budget Book." These may be preceded by the Mayor's Policy Instructions and Controller's Technical Instructions for the budget year.
The next publication is the multi-volume Department Program Budgets, a.k.a. "The Detailed Budget." This publication is not online, but print copies are in the Government Information Center as well as some of the large branch libraries. The document which is the legal authority for the City to spend funds during the fiscal year is the Consolidated Budget & Annual Appropriations Ordinance (issued twice: interim and final). The last publication is the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which conforms to standards set by the State's Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
All departments, boards, and commissions must prepare an annual report (San Francisco Administrative Code Sections 1.56 and 2A.30). Current or recent reports are online only and are usually posted on the department's Web page. The GIC maintains a directory of URLs for Annual Reports of City agencies. Older annual reports are available in print at the GIC, and the GIC prints and maintains paper copies of recent annual reports from Web sites whenever possible.
More specific or detailed budget information (other than what is available in the above publications) for a City department may be found in the minutes of the public meetings held by that department. Minutes of public meetings are available at the GIC.