Garcetti unveils $11.8 billion budget as final spending plan

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled his proposed $11.8 billion budget April 20, which he said aims to make Los Angeles cleaner and safer — including an 8.5% increase to the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget.

The budget proposal, which will next go to the City Council for revisions before being sent back to the mayor, represents an increase from the current year’s $11.2 billion budget.

The 2022-23 fiscal year begins on July 1. Garcetti said the budget reflects “a strong economic recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic, with revenues projected to be an estimated $7.4 billion, 6.6% higher than the current year.

“We made an incredibly strong economic recovery,” Garcetti said. “Our finances are in a very different place than it was two years ago when we faced down the toughest economic moment of our lives.

The mayor, in his last year in office, said his budget is aimed at addressing the “immediate needs” of making Los Angeles safer and cleaner, combating long-term problems such as homelessness and climate change, and setting up the next administration with a large reserve fund to use in case of an emergency, as the city had to do during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal includes a $149 million increase to the LAPD’s operating budget to $1.9 billion. The department’s total funding, which includes pensions, would be about $3.2 billion.

The additional funding is aimed at bringing sworn staffing levels to 9,735, up from the 9,470 officers projected to be at the department by the end of the current fiscal year. The department’s sworn personnel currently stand at 9,371, Police Chief Michel Moore said April 19.

More than $7 million is being added to the police budget to implement recommendations from three reports that found the department mishandled aspects of its response to 2020 protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. The funding would go to efforts to improve community relations, training, policy development and technology.

The department and the Los Angeles Police Commission, citing the reports’ recommendations, had requested an increase of $213 million, or about 12%, on Nov. 23.

The proposed additional funding comes as violent crime in Los Angeles has increased about 7% from 2021, which ended with a nearly 12% year-over-year climb in homicides, bringing it to levels not seen since 2006.

“Our city is still safer than it was in years past, far safer than it was a generation ago, but that doesn’t change the fact that every crime casts a long shadow on anybody who has been a victim,” Garcetti said.

While some have called for more police to address the crime increase — which has also occurred in cities across the country during the pandemic — the additional funding proposal is also certain to draw criticism from activists and some candidates in upcoming municipal elections who have repeatedly called for a decrease in police funding.

They say the money can be better spent to fund affordable housing, mental health services and anti-poverty programs, which they say will reduce crime and in turn reduce the need for policing.

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s Hamid Khan told City News Service that the coalition is beginning to speak about organizing protests against the budget proposal and any increase to LAPD funding. He said the proposal was indicative of how “policing our way out of the problem remains the primary
motive.”

“And then when you compare it with where the problems lie, for example, youth development … (the funding) is not even a drop in the bucket for youth development,” Khan said.

The proposed budget includes a 30% increase in funding for public safety alternatives, including an additional $2.5 million to expand the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, bringing its budget to $37.5 million.

That program’s signature initiative Summer Night Lights will also receive an additional $2.4 million, bringing its budget to $6.4 million to offer free food, evening activities and job opportunities in an effort to reduce crime over the summer.

The city’s CIRCLE initiative, which launched last year in Venice and Hollywood and dispatches homeless services teams with Urban Alchemy to nonviolent 911 calls regarding homeless people, would receive more than double its funding this year, from $3 million to $8 million.

The Los Angeles Fire Department’s therapeutic transport program providing mental health services would expand from two vans to five vans with $2 million in funding.

The budget also seeks to fill nearly 300 field staffing vacancies at the fire department by continuing a modified academy program in which recruits go through 14 weeks at the academy instead of 22 weeks. The proposed budget is seeking to receive a total of 260 firefighters from four new academy classes in the next fiscal year.

The fire department would also receive funding to create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau to mediate conflict, implement a diversity and inclusion plan and facilitate a positive work environment. The funding for the office comes as the department has faced allegations of a culture of racism, sexism, retaliation and abuse.

The budget also increases spending to combat the city’s homelessness crisis to $1.164 billion, up from $802 million last year, which was coupled with $164 million rolled over from the previous year.

Garcetti said the funds would support the creation of 3,700 new permanent supportive housing units. More than 900 Project Homekey units would be created with funds taken from several areas, including $225 million from the state.

Additional funding within the budget is also focused on creating a cleaner Los Angeles, with funding for the CleanLA program doubling to $8.3 million in order to expand the program and hire an additional 200 youth to clean the city. Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment teams responsible for illegal dumping requests will also be expanded.

As announced by Garcetti earlier this month during his State of the City Speech, the city is creating a Climate Equity Fund, with an initial funding of $10.5 million. The fund would pay for mitigation measures for low-income residents who suffer disproportionate impacts of climate change, air quality monitoring at oil drilling sites, rebates for heat mitigation home improvements and more.

The budget also includes added staff to the city’s sanitation department to track greenhouse gas emissions and engineering staff to develop decarbonization plans. An amortization study, the first step to phase out oil drilling in the city, will also be funded.

The City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will next review and make changes to the budget before it is reviewed by the full City Council, which must approve a budget by June 1 to take effect July 1.

Following the proposed budget’s release, Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin reiterated his call for caution as the city moves ahead, saying, “The billion-plus in federal pandemic assistance is gone, leaving no room for new, high-priced programs. And rising employment costs, coupled with sky-high inflation, could very well put the city in a revenue crunch.”

The controller urged Los Angeles officials to “focus on maintaining core services that residents depend on, and support programs with proven records of success.”

 

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