Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles City Council tentatively adopted an $8.6 billion spending plan Thursday that adds about $11 million in public safety funding to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s original budget proposal for the coming year.

The council voted unanimously in favor of a revised budget for the 2015- 2016 fiscal year, beginning July 1, that takes a step toward restoring the ranks of city firefighters after they were depleted through a five-year hiring freeze.

The council’s budget adds $4.5 million for two more firefighter training classes, which would allow the fire department to hire a total of 270 recruits, more than the 180 recruits this year.

Another $6.85 million was added to Garcetti’s budget to pay for fire safety equipment and technology upgrades, other fire department services and fingerprint backlog reduction efforts in the police department.

City officials said they found an extra funds to pay for these and other expenses, after using more recent data to make revenue projections.

A resolution that would enact the revised spending plan will return to the City Council for a final vote next week. If the resolution is approved, the mayor has five days to decide if he wants to veto any part of the budget.

Council President Herb Wesson said the budget restores some services to Angelenos following several lean budget years.

“City residents asked for more tree-trimming and sidewalk repair services for their neighborhoods and this year’s budget delivers just that,” Wesson said, adding that the budget sets the city’s highest ever “rainy day” reserve fund of about $300 million.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, hailed the latest budget as a sign that things have “taken a turn for the better.”

“We experienced significant growth, maintained and even added neighborhood services, and established the largest rainy day fund in the city’s history,” Krekorian said. “This is responsible budgeting that will protect our city and our neighborhoods for years to come.”

Krekorian added that there is more work ahead as “there is still an ongoing structural deficit that we need to eliminate as soon as we can.”

Garcetti thanked the council for working with him on a “back to basics budget that is balanced, sets our reserve fund at a record high, and makes the prudent investments we need for more services, infrastructure and jobs in Los Angeles.”

One major tweak in the City Council’s budget sets aside $8.1 million of the city’s general fund dollars to keep afloat about a dozen community programs — including day laborer centers and domestic violence shelters.

These programs had been receiving community block grants no longer budgeted for them under Garcetti’s plan.

The budget also requires the police department to jump through more hoops before they purchase more body cameras for their police officers.

Garcetti proposed in his budget that the funding be given directly to the police department to buy 7,000 cameras, but the City Council included a revision requiring the police department to justify the need for buying the body cameras before they would be allowed to spend the $4.55 million budgeted for them.

The adopted budget otherwise preserves Garcetti’s proposal to spend $9.1 million for cleaning streets and alleys and placing another 1,200 trash cans around the city, as well as an expanded $6.5 million budget for tree-trimming.

More sidewalks are expected to be repaired next year, thanks to a recent $1.4 billion settlement of several lawsuits lodged by disabled residents and advocates.

As part of the terms, the city agreed to budget about $31 million a year toward programs for fixing broken sidewalks.

The budget also sets aside $10 million in the city’s affordable housing trust fund to create more homes for low-income residents.

The spending plan assumes revenues will be up about 5.5 percent, including property tax, sales tax and hotel tax revenue.

It also assumes that about 20,000 city workers will agree to no raises and many will pay a bigger percentage of their health-care costs, but talks with city employee unions have dragged on since their contracts expired last year.

—City News Service

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