By Emilie St. John
INGLEWOOD — The City Council adopted its new budget Sept. 26 which projects a $7 million fund balance.
The proposed fiscal year 2023-24 operating budget totals $371,116,545, with expenditures estimated at $202.9 million and revenue estimates at close to $210 million.
City Manager Artie Fields said the budget “is a reaffirmation and extension of the city’s remarkable progress to achieve durable fiscal health and stability.”
“The previous fiscal year’s operating budget was notable for the fact that it was the first budget in over a decade that was not dependent on reserves or bond proceeds to achieve balance and this year replicates that.”
“General fund reserves have increased $26 million,” Fields said.
Fields attributed the city’s progress to “strong disciplined and courageous political leadership.”
“In actuality, the last time we projected a deficit in our spending plan that would have to be covered by general fund reserves was actually in 2018-19,” Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said. “Every year since then we’ve had a projection of a year-end surplus.
“This is very important because we have had people both from the public and someone who was supposed to know better, say that the city was in a dire financial situation and the reality is that since 2019-20 we have always ended up with a positive fund balance.”
The budget includes a carryover of $20.3 million in one-time funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those funds allowed the city to balance its budget after it was received the following fiscal year.
According to the budget, general fund revenues represent a 4% increase from the previous fiscal year. Higher revenue projections are the result of increased property tax, sales tax, vehicle in-lieu fees, utility user taxes, business license taxes and fees for service.
The budget also predicts a 3.6% increase in expenditures. Although expenditures continue to rise, this year expenditures were offset by reductions in retirement costs (accrued unfunded liability), lowered election expenses and by funding only capital improvement projects expected to be completed during the budget period.
The increases support negotiated wage and benefit costs, service level restoration, additional operating program enhancements and debt servicing schedules. The increase also is attributed to non-departmental line items such as gap-funding support for special assessment district funds, rising Los Angeles County Fire Department contract charges, insurance premiums and one-time expenditures.”
With expenses down in the mayor’s office, Butts proposed adding a position in the city manager’s office.
“We used to have an executive assistant to the mayor and city manager,” Butts said. “That position has gone vacant and I want to propose we add an executive assistant to the city manager because this is a much more complex job than it was before.”
According to budget figures submitted Sept. 26, costs for the city manager’s office increased by $300,000 after the mayor’s motion was approved.
Melanie McDade, who accused Butts of sexual harassment in a lawsuit after she left the city, previously served as executive assistant to both the mayor and city manager, which helped swell her salary to $324,000.
According to the city’s organization chart, key positions remain vacant. The city currently has vacancies for finance director, public works director and assistant city manager.
The 2023-24 budget was unanimously approved, along with the mayor’s motion to add a position to the city manager.
The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.