A Los Angeles City Council committee began the lengthy task of breaking down Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposed 2021-22 budget Tuesday ahead of the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
In its first of eight meetings on the budget between now and May 14, the Budget and Finance Committee heard public comment and a presentation on the budget from Garcetti’s office before it dives into specifics during meetings.
The process of coming up with a revised budget to present to the full council will take several weeks, according to committee chair Councilman Paul Krekorian. Like last year, the process will take place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Garcetti has again proposed the largest budget in city history, with an overall $11.2 billion budget and $6.6 billion general fund revenue projection. Government spending at all levels inevitably rises because of inflation, expansion of programs and increased population.
The general fund will also include $677 million from the $1.3 billion the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan. The city has not received any of that federal funding but expects to on May 10, when it will put half toward the 2021-22 fiscal year and use the other half to fill deficit for the current fiscal year.
Krekorian signaled support for Garcetti’s budget proposal, calling it “a healthy starting point” and a “bold budget in a year when a bold budget is needed,” but he noted that much of it was “subject to significant policy development by the council.”
Krekorian also noted that city leaders need to manage the public’s expectations about future budgets, because some of the programs funded in this proposal, partly due to federal dollars, will not have adequate funding to continue past this fiscal year.
Matt Szabo, Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff, told committee members the proposed budget’s top priorities are COVID-19 response and recovery, city services restoration, bolstering the city’s financial health, equity and justice and housing and homelessness.
Under the proposed budget about $696 million would go into the city’s reserve fund.
“We feel very strongly that we should have high reserves in this very unusual year, given the uncertainty that we still continue to face as related to our COVID recovery and other issues,” Szabo told the committee.
Szabo added that the mayor’s office’s economic projections are “economically sensitive revenues” and aren’t guaranteed.
Large spending proposals within the budget include more than $950 million to address the city’s homelessness crisis, which consists of $791 million in this budget and $164 million rolling over from the current fiscal year’s budget.
According to Garcetti’s office, that $791 million is more than $400 million more than what was allocated for homelessness in the current fiscal year.
The funding includes:
— $362 million for permanent housing through Proposition HHH funding;
— $20 million to increase the city’s supply of affordable housing;
— $65 million, provided through a one-time state grant, to support A Bridge Home housing sites, rapid rehousing, outreach, hygiene services and other services;
— $59 million to fund the Los Angeles Homeless Services and other services and programs;
— $35 million for homeless prevention and eviction defense;
— $43 million for Project Roomkey hotels, which will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will allow the city to keep funding at least 1,500 rooms; and
— $57 million for Comprehensive Cleaning and Rapid Engagement (CARE+) teams, which provide homeless encampment cleanups.
As is customary, the Los Angeles Police Department would receive the most funding in the proposed budget, with a $1.76 billion budget, a 3% increase from when the Los Angeles City Council cut $150 million from the department’s budget last July.
The mayor’s office notes that all other city departments would receiving a 9% increase in the budget, and the LAPD budget is a 5% reduction from the initial 2020-21 budget proposal.
Several organizations and activists, including Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Nicolas Emmons of Ktown for All, and Kenneth Mejia, who is running for city controller, called into the committee meeting to oppose the budget, which they believe spends too much on the police.
“We are demanding that we defund the police, that money is taken from the police and reallocated to other services and resources that actually support the community, especially the Black community and our most vulnerable populations,” one caller, who said she was in support of the Peoples Budget L.A., said.
A woman named Kim, who said she was with Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, also said she was disappointed in increased police budget in the proposal.
“The money that you’re spending in this budget is our money, it’s not your money, it’s not the mayor’s money, so I don’t understand why you wouldn’t listen to the people, the constituents, that are telling you how they would like their money spent,” she said.
Councilman Curren Price, who serves on the committee, said Tuesday he believes the budget proposal gives council members an opportunity to build on its commitment to allocating the city’s money equitably.
“People who normally would not engage in this process are speaking out, and I just wanted to let them know that I hear you,” Price said during the committee meeting, referring to the large number of people in South Los Angeles who attended a listening session on the budget.
“Last year, we made a down payment on reinvesting in our communities and I believe this budget affords us the opportunity to continue on that promise. So I look forward to working with you and my other colleagues and our departments to bring forward an equitable and just budget,” Price said.
Though a small percent of the overall budget, the proposal also includes $10 million for alternatives to dispatch programs and $33 million to the Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program, which would increase the program’s budget by a third.
It would also include $24 million for a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program that would give $1,000 a month to 2,000 low-income families for a year.
The city previously allocated $6 million to a program that gives $1,000 a month to 500 single-parent households in Price’s district in South Los Angeles. That program’s funding was allocated from funding cut from the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget.
The Budget and Finance Committee will hold seven more meetings to discuss the budget:
— 1 p.m. Wednesday;
— 9 a.m. Thursday;
— 9 a.m. Friday;
— 9 a.m. Monday;
— 1 p.m. May 5;
— 9 a.m. May 6; and
— 1 p.m. May 14.
The public can provide comment on the budget proposal during the May 6 meeting and during public comment once the full City Council begins considering the committee’s recommendations.
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