LA City Council Passes $9.9 Billion Budget for 2018-2019

Los Angeles City Hall. (Chris Marshall/CNS)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles City Council approved a $9.9 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year on Monday, boosting contributions to the city’s cash reserves and funding for housing projects for the homeless.

In a 15-0 vote, the City Council approved a budget that will, among other things, increase staff at the 311 call center, spend over $260 million on repairs for the city’s most damaged streets and sidewalks, add 70 beds to domestic violence shelters, and fund Census 2020 outreach and educational efforts.

City lawmakers also approved a series of motions Monday to boost the budget stabilization fund to $107 million – above the $104 million proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti – and the reserve fund to $351 million, $8 million above what the mayor requested.

An additional $6 million was approved by the council for a mid-year budget fund to make up for any potential shortfalls.

Garcetti’s proposed budget, unveiled on April 19, relies on a projected 5.6 percent increase in revenues from property, sales and hotel taxes.

Meanwhile, cannabis shops are expected to pump $10 million in additional revenue according to a May 15 report by the city’s chief legislative analyst.

Total revenue from legal pot is less that what the city estimated, however: In June 2017, City Controller Ron Galperin estimated the city could see $50 million in taxes from marijuana in 2018.

The proposed budget includes $2.3 million for staff to enforce laws against unlicensed cannabis businesses.

It includes $91 million for Vision Zero, a project to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025, and other traffic and pedestrian safety projects.

The budget also commits $10 million to a fund for police overtime pay and $9 million to hire 195 firefighters.

Pension costs for the city’s public employees, meanwhile, are projected to increase by $91.8 million, bringing total spending to $1.2 billion over the next year.

Riding the wave of a strong state economy, Garcetti – a potential 2020 presidential candidate – proposed a 7.6 percent increase from last year’s budget.

In early May, California climbed the global rankings to become the fifth largest economy in the world. But not all residents are thriving in the state’s economic boom.

California leads the nation with both the highest number of people experiencing homelessness – about 134,000, or 24 percent of the nation’s total – and the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless people of any state at 68 percent, according to a California State Auditor report issued last month.

A report by Phil Ansell, director of Los Angeles County’s homeless initiatives, said nearly half of LA County residents pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

Over 80 percent of the lowest income residents who make under $15,000 annually pay more than half their income on rent, according to county data.

The City Council-approved budget would create a $20 million fund for emergency homeless shelters in districts across Los Angeles and spend $176 million on programs to address homelessness.

The bulk of financing for homelessness programs comes from Proposition HHH, a tax approved by Los Angeles voters in November 2017.

The next fiscal year will be the first full year of Proposition HHH funding. The parcel tax is expected to raise $1.2 billion in bonds for the construction of 10,000 housing units.

Garcetti’s proposed budget kicked off weeks of public hearings by lawmakers, analysis from city officials and comment from the public.

In a May 3 letter to city leaders, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council said the issues of homelessness and lack of affordable housing have been “endlessly discussed but so far have lacked satisfactory resolution.”

The neighborhood council also took issue with the amount lawmakers allocated to the reserve fund, which they said is below state requirements.

“We want the fiscal resilience to feel confident about our future,” the letter said.

All 15 council members were elated once the final votes were tallied.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian said it was the fastest city budget process in recent memory.

“No one should think the speed at which this process was completed should indicate any kind of lack of vetting,” Krekorian said.

Sharon Gin, legislative assistant at the city clerk’s office, said the budget will now go to the mayor’s desk.

Garcetti can either sign the budget, veto it or decide to take no action.

Whatever he decides, a full budget must be in place by June 1, Gin said.

 

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