Homeless Programs, More Cops: Bass Unveils $13 Billion City Budget Proposal

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass Tuesday unveiled a $13 billion proposed city budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which she said reflects the city's values and invests in its most critical needs, including homelessness, public safety and funding a "new L.A."

"There is a difference between spending and investing," Bass said at a news conference following the spending-plan reveal. "This budget makes investments in bringing people inside and public safety, and other areas that will lead a return in terms of saving lives, in terms of quality of life and better neighborhoods."

The proposed budget projects short-term stability, but at a slower than historical growth rate in the city's tax revenues of only 2.4%. The overall general fund budget will grow by 5.6%, in part due to a $115 million transfer from the reserve fund. Bass' plan also includes reserves of 10.03%, just above the 10% target set in the city's financial policies.

Bass emphasized her budget is "strong" and fiscally solvent, saying it will allow her administration to set ambitious goals for the city's future.

The proposed budget commits an "unprecedented" $1.3 billion to address the city's homelessness crisis, she said. In addition, nearly $250 million will scale up the mayor's Inside Safe program citywide -- a plan to bring people inside from tents and encampments, with the goal of housing 17,000 Angelenos in the first year.

Key areas of the budget for Inside Safe will allocate $110 million to pay for motel and other interim housing costs; $47 million to acquire motels and hotels to reduce future program costs; $10 million set aside for staff, including directors and property managers as well as administrative funding for service providers; $62 million for ongoing services such as case management, food, residential staff and support services; and $21 million for the development of transition and permanent housing and the establishment of a 12- month rental assistance program.

"This budget breaks new ground by funding the purchase of hotels and motels, which will reduce costs compared with renting rooms," Bass said. "This is long overdue and something that the community sees as just common sense."

A homeless encampment along San Vicente Boulevard, just across the street from Beverly Hills, has stirred concerns among residents and garnered the attention of Bass as well. According to Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents the Fifth District, where the encampment lies, there are not enough beds to provide housing for those inhabitants.

Bass said "help is on the way," and reiterated why the $1.3 billion investment to address homelessness will help alleviate the homelessness crisis by allowing the city to develop housing projects and purchase more hotels and motels to increase the city's stock of interim housing.

The city also expects to generate $672 million from Measure ULA, known by some as the "mansion tax," which enacted a 4% tax on properties sold for more than $5 million and a 5.5% tax on properties sold for more than $10 million and went into effect April 1.

However, ongoing litigation has caused some concerns in Bass' office about the future of that measure.

"We are going to spend $150 million, and just to guarantee, we are looking for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to backfill that in the event that ULA is challenged," Bass said.

The $150 million from Measure ULA will be used to support the city's efforts to address homelessness.

She said the spending proposal will commit funding to the Los Angeles Police Department and efforts to bolster its dwindling ranks, with the goal of increasing the number of officers to 9,504. Bass said she wants the city to support the hiring and training of new officers, and also provide funds to bring back recently retired officers to the department for up to 12 months.

Her spending plan also includes about $1 million to expedite the application process for candidates looking to join the LAPD. The city is also developing an incentive program that will provide bonuses of up to $15,000 for new officers and lateral recruitment.

"This budget supports urgent efforts to also grow the police department to make up for attrition to reach an end of the year size of 9,500 officers," Bass said. "This is an ambitious goal, but we must be bold to change the downward trend in the size of the LAPD as we work to restore the department to its full size."

As more administrative positions are filled within the LAPD by civilians, the city will replace officers at desks and allow for more officers on the field -- with priorities to hire police service representatives to improve 911 response times, detention officers to move sworn officers out of the jail operations, and property disposition coordinators to have civilians manage property.

Bass said that in addition to bolstering the LAPD's force, her budget outlines funding to increase hires for the city's fire department too.

Emergency medical calls to the Los Angeles Fire Department make up 84% of all emergency calls. Bass' budget would allocate funding for the creation of an Emergency Appointment Paramedic program that would hire, train and deploy people who are paramedics to respond to medical emergencies, while they prepare to complete the Fire Academy within a year.

However, Bass continued to express her commitment to community engagement and community services as a core part of the city's public safety strategy.

"This budget makes clear that we have a holistic view of public safety and we want our officers responding to crime," Bass said. "We should not rely on them for being the first responders to homelessness, mental health or other crises."

The budget would also fund the new Mayor's Office of Community Safety and build out the infrastructure for non-law enforcement responses. It would house the city's Gang Reduction and Youth Development, Summer Night Light, Crisis Response Team, Crisis and Incident Response Through Community-Led Engagement and the Domestic Abuse Response Team.

The budget would increase funding for GRYD from $28 million to $48 million, as well as provide funding to expand services under the Crisis Response Team and maintain seven teams operating in six regions of the city through CIRCLE, a 24/7 unarmed response program aimed at addressing non- emergency police calls related to homelessness.

DART's funding would increase by nearly $1 million to $3.7 million, which would double the number of DART workers to address 911 calls involving domestic violence.

Bass said she carved out funding to address poverty and income inequality in various ways, such as connecting people to jobs and opportunities and supporting families and children.

The mayor's budget highlights $3 million for LA: Rise, $3 million for Hire LA Youth and funding to continue CleanLA, a program that serves as a pathway to city employment.

Furthermore, LA's Best would receive nearly $4 million to pay for positions, bus transportation and training; the city would also provide $5 million to support childcare centers and provide $18 million for senior meals.

Bass' proposed budget includes provisions to support small and local businesses, enhancing tourism, expanding and continued the city's al fresco program, as well as investing in the environment through zero-carbon emission goals and green initiatives.

Funds for city infrastructure would also receive a boost as the mayor indicated an additional $28 million to its already required $36 million for sidewalk repairs, and $8 million to improve bus shelters and benches throughout the city.

Under the mayor's proposed budget, Los Angeles Animal Services would also receive an increase in funding to improve volunteer coordination, hire staff and enhance animal health services and adoptions. The department's previous allocation of $26.9 million would increase to $31.7 million -- a boost of $4.8 million.

The L.A. Zoo would see more funding, with $2.5 million to address facility repairs and $4.1 million for design work on larger capital improvements.

Timothy O'Reilly, chairman of the Los Angeles County Republican Party, said in a statement that Bass' homelessness budget has enough money to "rent every homeless person in Los Angeles a studio apartment and give him or her over $1,100 per month."

"Mayor Bass' new budget proposal shows us that she believes more money put into the old system is the solution to L.A.'s problems," O'Reilly said in a statement.

In response to the mayor's funding proposal directed at policing, O'Reilly said the LAPD struggles to hire officers not because it "doesn't pay enough," but because "officers think no one in city government has their backs." The $15,000 in sign-on bonuses "isn't worth an officers' life and livelihood in a city that doesn't care about them," he added.

Next begins the lengthy process in which the City Council reviews the proposed budget, beginning at the committee level, where changes are likely to be put forth before a revised spending plan gets a vote from the full council. The council has until June 1 to send the budget to Bass' desk for a final signature. The fiscal year begins on July 1.

Shortly after Bass unveiled her proposed budget, Council President Paul Krekorian issued a statement saying the budget points the city in the right direction.

"It is now the duty of the City Council to review the mayor's proposal and craft a final budget that honors the city's priorities, respects our fiscal realities and fully reflects the needs of all our constituents," Krekorian said.

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