Battling homelessness and fixing dangerous sidewalks will be hot topics as the Los Angeles City Council will hold a special meeting Thursday at which it will debate a $9.2 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
A vote on the budget is also expected before the end of Thursday’s meeting.
The budget has a $456 million increase in revenue over the 2016-17 budget, a 5.2 percent bump made possible in part by a series of city, county and state tax hikes. As a result of the increased revenue, many departments and constituent services are seeing budget increases while the city also preserves a 5 percent reserve fund.
The tax hikes includes a county sales tax increase for transportation projects through Measure M; a county sales tax increase for homeless services through Measure H; bond funding for homeless housing though Measure HHH; a cannabis tax through Proposition M; and a state legislative measure for transit through Senate Bill 1.
“This is a sensible budget that improves neighborhood services, increases funding for public safety and transportation measures, invests in street and sidewalk repair, works to reduce homelessness and puts money back into our community parks,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. “It also plans for the future by bolstering risk management and ensuring that the city isn’t caught unprepared by unforeseen liability expenses that may come our way over the next year.”
At its final meeting last week, when it approved adjustments to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposed budget, the only real sticking point for the Budget and Finance Committee was funding for Vision Zero traffic safety program.
The Vision Zero plan centers around an identified series of streets, called the High Injury Network, which have a higher incidence of severe and fatal collisions and prioritizes those streets for safety improvements. The program began in 2015 through an executive directive and aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2025.
Over the objections of Councilman Mike Bonin and Councilwoman Nury Martinez, the committee moved to put all of the potential money for Vision Zero, which is $23 million, into the unappropriated balance.
Garcetti’s proposed budget called for a major increase in Vision Zero funding, from $3 million to $17, but Bonin said the end result of the be budget could be far less than the mayor proposed.
The reason Bonin cited was that the unappropriated money isn’t just for Vision Zero and could also be spent for street paving and other needs, which could end up drastically reducing the amount for the project.
The Vision Zero debate was centered around the fact that part of the money will come from Measure M, a November ballot expected to raise $120 billion in the county over 40 years for public transit.
Some council members have expressed concern that Measure M was pitched to voters as a street improvement program that would be used to fix streets and sidewalks, and not for safety improvements.
Despite the possible reduction for Vision Zero, Matt Szabo, Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff, told the committee the mayor supported the change.
Krekorian explained the budget change for Vision Zero as a way to appease both sides who want funding for Vision Zero and for street repairs throughout the city, and that “the two goals are not inconsistent.”
—City News Service
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