$12.8 billion city budget a ‘reset,’ Bass says

Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — Amid financial concerns due to lower-than-planned revenues and unexpected spending needs, Mayor Karen Bass released a proposed $12.8 billion city budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year April 22 and sent it to the City Council for revisions.

Significantly, the proposal — described by Bass as a “reset” — includes $65 million in cuts to her signature Inside Safe program; an increase of more than $138 million for the Los Angeles Police Department; and a decrease of about $23 million for the L.A. Fire Department.

“We’re here today to lay out a path forward for Los Angeles,” Bass said during a news conference at City Hall. “As I said during the State of the City [speech] a week ago, the state of Los Angeles is stronger because of the work we are doing to break the status quo.”

Bass stressed that her proposed budget will continue the city’s work in addressing challenges such homelessness, public safety and meeting climate goals.

“This budget continues our momentum toward change by prioritizing core city services, but using this as an opportunity as a reset, so that our budgets moving forward are more honest, transparent and more focused,” she said.

On the issue of homelessness, the proposed budget would allocate $185 million to Bass’ cornerstone program, Inside Safe, a decrease of $65 million from this fiscal year.

Of this funding, about $70 million would be used to pay for motel rooms and other interim housing, while another $60 million would cover social-services at these sites, including health care, meals, case management, housing navigation and substance-use programs. About $28 million would be allocated for permanent housing and time-limited subsidies, and $24 million for housing acquisition.

Bass also proposed $2 million to expand street medicine teams and continue providing medical visits to people experiencing homelessness. Her office noted that more than 6,000 medical exams were conducted by the street teams this fiscal year.

Another $3 million would support the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise program, known as LA Rise, which provides subsidized job opportunities for unhoused people. An additional $4.1 million would be spent on mobile hygiene centers. About $17 million would be spent on FamilySource Centers, which help families at-risk of falling into homelessness.

Affordable-housing efforts would receive $4.4 million from state grants, with plans to expedite processes for mixed-income residential projects with on-site affordable units. City officials are looking to expand homelessness prevention programs by leveraging more Measure ULA dollars from $150 million to more than $400 million. Passed by LA voters in 2022, Measure ULA, known as the “Mansion Tax,” is a special tax on property sales exceeding $5 million.

Leaders of the Black community expressed support for Bass’ budget proposal.

“Mayor Bass is leading our city in a very holistic and integral way,” said Bishop Craig A. Worsham, founder and senior pastor of the Agape Church of Los Angeles. “I commend her for the courageous leadership she is exhibiting in her quest to house the unhoused, keeping all Angelenos safe and creating sustainable community empowerment. 

“She’s committed to fostering a sense of unity that makes L.A. feel like a cohesive family, and her budget is a true reflection of this.”

“We support the Mayor’s sense of urgency and emergency in continuing to correct the homelessness crisis,” said Cheyenne Bryant, president of the San Pedro, Wilmington and Palos Verdes chapter of the NAACP. “Our partnership with the mayor has shown that she understands that shelter, mental health and resources provide a good quality of life and is a human right.”

Business leaders also were supportive of the spending plan.

“Your strategic budget decisions ensure resilience and success of our small business community amidst ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19 and upcoming opportunities in Los Ángeles over the next few years,” said JC Lacey, president of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce. “Your visionary leadership shines brightly, guiding us towards a prosperous future.”

“The mayor has shown uncommon effort to support small businesses,” said Greg Dulan, owner of Dulan’s Restaurant. “During her time in office, she has personally supported my business and offered me words of encouragement and uplift. Her leadership inspires me.” 

Yvonne Wheeler, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, said the budget plan, “continues towards our goal of a more livable Los Angeles for the working class and their families.”

The Rev. Robert R. Shaw II, senior pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church, praised Bass for her “commitment to the care and concern for every citizen of Los Angeles.”

“We firmly stand by her, lending our unwavering support.”

With Bass stressing the need to recruit sworn officers to the LAPD’s depleted ranks, the police department would receive an increase of $138,168,080 — to $1,993,846,820 — from the city’s general fund. Combined with federal, state and other funding sources, the overall LAPD budget is about $3.3 billion.

The goal, Bass has repeatedly said, is increasing the number of officers to 9,084, though city leaders have said they want to hire 9,500 officers by 2028 or earlier.

In 2023, the city approved contracts with the unions representing LAPD’s low- and high-ranking officers that are expected to cost more than $1 billion through 2027.

The fire department, meanwhile, would see a decrease of $22,909,285 in the proposed budget — $814,281,952.

However, the proposal would increase funding for the fire department to support the Emergency Appointment Paramedic Program, with city officials noting the Fire Department responds to more calls for service related to medical emergencies than other categories.

In addition, another $2.5 million would bring new equipment and technology updates for the department, prompted by the aftermath fire beneath the Santa Monica (10) Freeway that forced a temporary closure last year.

The proposed budget also invests $50 million in alternative response programs, such as the Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement, Summer Night Lights program, and the Office of Community Safety.

City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo has said the city faces a $469 million deficit, composed of $289 million in unexpected spending and $180 million in less revenue than expected. City revenue generated by several taxes have come in slowly and continue to do so, while overspending was partly due to costs associated with public-safety overtime, liability claims and other issues, Szabo has said.

To right-size the budget, city officials have dipped into the reserve fund. Additionally, the city has implemented a hiring priority plan, and will look to eliminate 2,000 vacant positions from the books, which could save the city $150 million to $200 million.

Bass noted the city would invest $1.8 million to modernize the city’s MyLA311 system to improve accountability and respond quicker to resident’s service requests.

“The mayor’s proposed budget projects only a 1% increase in revenue growth over the adopted budget for this current fiscal year — that’s just $83 million,” Szabo said during the budget briefing.

“We are predicting trends in our economically sensitive revenues that we continue to see downward pressure on sales, business, hotel, documentary transfer and property taxes.”

He added, “We are still seeing the effects of high interest rates and inflation that are having effect on consumer behavior on the housing market.”

Szabo noted the proposed budget would ensure the city remains within its financial policy of maintaining a 5% reserve fund.

“The mayor’s fiscal 2024-25 proposed budget builds on the efforts enacted in the current year to stabilize the city’s fiscal condition in response to growing challenges,” Szabo said. “It provides clarity on how we will address the budget imbalance caused by rising expenses at a time of limited revenue growth and it presents a path toward returning to structural balance by fiscal year 2028-29.”

Other highlights of the mayor’s proposed budget, include:

• $13.1 million for street lights and the prevention of copper wire theft.

• $2.2 million for 128 more crossing guards at Los Angeles Unified School District schools.

• $35.7 million for sidewalk improvements.

• $24.6 million in fleet vehicle replacements and $14 million to purchase new electric buses for the city’s Commuter Express service.

• $1.2 million for 150 more electric-vehicle chargers in low-income neighborhoods.

• And $4.8 million for infrastructure improvements at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant and another $1.5 million for other water conservation efforts.