Los Angeles County’s $31.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2018-19 was approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors and each of the five board members highlighted spending in line with their priorities.
The approval came after a series of public hearings during which advocates for various departments and programs argued their case.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger called the final budget fiscally cautious, pointing to $69 million added to the county’s rainy day fund.
“As I have stressed a number of times previously — and I’m sure I will again — it is critical that we remain committed to our fiduciary responsibility as stewards of public funds, and to ensure that tax dollars are being spent in an efficient and cost effective manner,” Barger said in a statement following the board meeting.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hailed the budget as “an extraordinary example of what government can do” and reflective of “the county’s commitment to meet people where they are … sometimes they can’t vote on a Tuesday … sometimes they aren’t competent yet to stand trial … sometimes they don’t have a home and are finding refuge in libraries and parks and under freeway.”
Ridley-Thomas said “this budget recognizes that” by changing the voting system and funding pre-trial diversion programs, homeless shelters and affordable housing.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who currently chairs the board, emphasized more than $93 million in state income taxes paid under the Mental Health Services Act that will be used to fund “125 new positions, to create new programs, to expand existing programs that promote child well-being as well as community-based mental health.”
Supervisor Janice Hahn called the budget “more than just a fiscal document. It really is, for us, kind of a moral document. It actually dictates how we think the county of Los Angeles should behave.”
Hahn expressed support for in-home supportive services workers whose union leaders are negotiating for a one dollar per hour increase in wages, saying, “If there is any way that we can lift their wages, I think we would all be very happy about that.”
Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai said she could not recommend any increase in wages today, but her office was continuing to analyze the issue and would return to the board during the supplemental budget review. That review is expected in the fall, based on fiscal year-end 2017-18 adjustments and clarification on the state budget.
IHSS workers, who provide in-home assistance for elderly and disabled individuals, aren’t the only ones still looking for more money from the county.
More than two dozen public defenders, defense attorneys and immigrants rights advocates turned out to push the board to hire 15 more lawyers with immigration expertise to represent indigent defendants, saying the staff can’t keep pace with changes in immigration enforcement.
“For many non-citizens … the worst punishment that could be inflicted on them is not … the jail cell. It is what comes next,” Emi MacLean of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network told the board.
“Will the (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who received time served for a misdemeanor offense find himself transferred to ICE custody from the back exit of the courthouse? … Will the military veteran with a green card who used drugs as a coping mechanism after witnessing combat up close find himself in deportation proceedings?”
The final budget as approved allows for five of those 15 new positions, but Supervisor Hilda Solis said she hoped that supplemental changes to the budget in the fall might include even more than the additional 10 requested by advocates.
“More resources are going to be necessary in the upcoming year,” Solis said. “… I commend the CEO for putting those positions in, but we need to up that.”