LA Council Set to Approve Its Amended Version of City Budget

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council will meet in a special session Thursday, when it is expected to approve its amended version of Mayor Karen Bass' proposed $13 billion city budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

City Council President Paul Krekorian and Budget, Finance, and Innovation Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield said in a joint statement Wednesday that the body is "poised to pass" the spending plan, following several weeks of analysis by the budget committee and hours of public hearings.

Bass unveiled her proposal on April 18 -- and all its many elements are subject to amendment by the council.

However, Krekorian's and Blumenfield's statement noted that the budget on which the council will vote Thursday contains "an unprecedented $1.3 billion being allocated to address the homelessness crisis and further investment in public safety, unarmed crisis response teams, climate change efforts and infrastructure," among its elements.

Bass will still need to sign the council's version of the budget before it becomes official.

One key element of Bass' proposed budget would commit funding to bolster the Los Angeles Police Department's dwindling ranks by adding some 400 officers by next June -- but it's not known if the council's amended version will give the mayor all she wants in that area.

During budget committee and public hearings, that issue drew both support and opposition -- with some constituents calling for funding intended for the LAPD to be reallocated to other departments and city services.

It is known that, as part of Thursday's special session, the council will OK a compromise allowing Bass the "maximum flexibility" she is seeking to spend $250 million on her Inside Safe homelessness program -- while also ensuring more transparency and accountability that some council members called for.

According to Blumenfield, the recommendation would allocate $65.7 million for Inside Safe on July 1, with the remaining $184.3 million being placed in the General City Purpose fund. Once the Inside Safe account falls below $25 million, Chief Administrative Officer Matthew W. Szabo would notify Bass, council members and City Controller Kenneth Mejia, and the fund would be replenished to $50 million from the GCP fund.

Budget committee members supported that recommendation, as it included a provision that would allow the council to order the replenishment to stop at any time. The committee also included a requirement that the mayor's office must provide biweekly reports to the council's Housing and Homelessness Committee regarding expenditures and ongoing operations of Inside Safe.

"The mayor is very comfortable with this idea as well because she understands that we need to have transparency and accountability. We don't disagree on that," Blumenfield said during the budget committee's meeting Friday. "We're in complete lockstep on that idea."

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, $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.

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.

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

Bass has said she wants the city to support the hiring and training of new LAPD officers, and 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.

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.

Her proposal 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 Lights, 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, the LA's Best afterschool enrichment program 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 receive more funding, with $2.5 million to address facility repairs and $4.1 million for design work on larger capital improvements.

Overall, Bass' proposal 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.

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