The Los Angeles City Council Thursday will consider the 2021-22 fiscal year budget that was proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and revised by the Budget and Finance Committee, which includes historic spending to combat the homelessness crisis.
The committee will present the budget to council members, who have until June 1 to adopt a budget and present it to Garcetti to approve or veto. Garcetti 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. This budget also includes half of the approximate $1.3 billion that the city was allocated through the American Rescue Plan. The city expects to receive that funding within the next month, with the second half expected 12 months from now.
Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso told the Budget and Finance Committee that parts of the budget depend on federal guidelines for how the American Rescue Plan funding can be used.
“It is going to remain to be seen how those guidelines are interpreted and whether the budget is going to be consistent with those guidelines,” Tso said. “We believe they are. We believe that adjustments will be necessary though to make certain of that.” The city is scheduled to receive half of the funding in the next month and the second half a year later.
Tso also noted that the city is receiving $75 million less than expected from the American Rescue Plan, but increases in other revenues will make up for that loss.
During budget hearings that began on April 27, the committee heard from general managers, executive directors and senior staff members of all city departments regarding the proposed budget, how it would impact their services and the department’s previous budgets.
Large spending within the budget includes nearly $1 billion to address the city’s homelessness crisis and more than $1.7 billion for the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget, a 3% increase from when the Los Angeles City Council cut $150 million from the department’s budget last July.
Committee members added funding for additional staff for the Department of Recreation and Parks and the proposed wildlife corridor ordinance, and also requested more than 200 reports back for a more in-depth analysis on aspects of the budget and made recommendations to the Chief Legislative Analyst. The CLA submitted recommendations reviewed by the committee on Friday, when committee members proposed and voted on additional changes.
“Over the course of recent days, the (Chief Legislative Analyst’s) office has done Herculean work to try to accommodate the priorities of this committee as expressed through a variety of motions and through the memos,” committee chair Councilman Paul Krekorian said during the last budget hearing on Friday.
One of the largest changes made by the CLA and a motion by committee chair Councilman Paul Krekorian Friday is funding for an oil and gas amortization study in preparation of phasing out drilling in the city. During public comment on the budget on May 6, several people, some calling on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Sunrise Movement, requested the committee add $3.4 million for the study and staffing to draft a nonconforming land-use ordinance to ensure that when the City Council votes to begin phasing out oil and gas drilling, the city has the money to support it.
The CLA’s proposed $1 million in funding for the amortization study, which Tso described as a placeholder before a pending report on what funding was needed.
Krekorian on Friday motioned to add an additional $2.5 million for a total of $3.5 million for the amortization study. The motion was unanimously passed by the five-member committee. Councilman Kevin de León had stated his support for adding funding to the amortization study earlier in the meeting.
“I think if we’re really serious about this (amortization study), we’re going to have to raise this up to at least a couple million dollars more,” he said.
De León also motioned to request three additional positions for the Board of Public Works dedicated to the phase-out of oil drilling within the city: one senior management analyst, one environmental engineer and one management analyst. His motion passed, but Krekorian dissented, noting that he supported the spirit of the request but believed that the bureau first needs a petroleum administrator to advise on necessary staffing to phase out oil drilling.
Krekorian also motioned to authorize one environmentalist specialist position and one city planner position in the Department of City Planning to help finalize the wildlife corridor ordinance.
During public comment on May 6, Los Angeles conservation advocates, organized by the Center for Biological Diversity, called requesting funds for four staff positions, an environmental specialist, city planner and two planning associates, to finalize the ordinance.
The Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved Krekorian’s motion to request funding for two of the positions to the budget’s draft.
Another significant change proposed by the Chief Legislative Analyst was budgeting for additional hiring and operational needs for the Department of Recreation and Parks, which was requested by Councilwoman Nithya Raman in a letter to the Budget and Finance Committee. Raman, as well as members of the public who called into the committee’s May 6 meeting, expressed concern that the mayor’s proposal would not allow the department to refill 140 positions that were lost during the pandemic.
Raman had noted that as a result of the department’s budget reduction, the Griffith Park Observatory, which is in her district, will close two extra days and reduce the number of science days offered to children during the school year.
In addition to the CLA proposing funding for the department to refill the 140 lost positions, Krekorian on Friday motioned to add funding for additional recreation and parks positions, including for aquatics, construction, land maintenance, homeless and emergency management, human resources and recreation staffing.
Other significant changes in the CLA’s recommendations include:
— increasing funding for senior meal programs;
— increasing funding to the Civil, Human Rights and Equity Department; and
— providing funding for illegal cannabis enforcement and litigation support.
“The Budget and Finance Committee deliberations focused in large part on the long-term restoration of services, efforts to assist in the economic recovery of city residents and to address long-standing equity imbalance issues. At the same time, the Budget and Finance Committee was cognizant of the need to build back the city’s reserves, to strengthen the city’s financial position and to poise itself favorably for the future,” Tso said in a letter to the committee ahead of the budget hearing last Friday.
“We believe the recommendations contained in this report address the highest priorities of the Budget and Finance Committee, preserve the ability for Council to conduct a detailed review of major policy issues, give time to adequately assess the city’s economic recovery and regulations for the use of federal funds, and allow the city to respond to potential shortfalls, revenue changes and other issues.”
The Los Angeles City Council will discuss the budget at 9 a.m. Thursday. Members of the public can call in to voice their opinions about the budget by calling 669-254-5252 and use Meeting ID No. 160 535 8466. The meeting can be watched at clerk.lacity.org/calendar.