Politics

Public safety, police body cameras, cleanups in LA's next budget

Mayor Eric Garcetti presents his annual budget proposal with Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, left, and City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana
Mayor Eric Garcetti presents his annual budget proposal with Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, left, and City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana
Sharon McNary/KPCC

Buoyed by a booming housing market and increased tourism, the City of Los Angeles is expecting more income, bigger reserves and more hiring, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday as he rolled out his proposed $8.5 billion budget for the coming fiscal year.

"In this budget, we're strengthening the basic services that mean the most," Garcetti said. "Crime prevention, intervention and enforcement, faster emergency services, making sure that we have new programs to clean our streets."

Crediting an improved economy, Garcetti called an end to a hiring freeze called "managed hiring" that had been in place for several years. The city will increase the number of jobs by about 2 percent, but he said they won't all be filled because people are retiring faster than the city can recruit replacements.

For example, the city will train 180 new firefighters, but that will only slow the pace of shrinking at the Fire Department caused by staff retirements.

Garcetti said he was proposing a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

Fix-ups and cleanups

The new budget put a $9 million price tag on the mayor's Clean Streets Initiative - including about $4 million to put work crews one day each month in each City Council district.

The mayor wants to spend $1 million for extra cleaning for 35 restrooms at the city's most heavily-used parks.

He also proposes adding 50 percent to the tree trimming budget - enough to trim 57,000 trees.

The budget also calls for about $31 million to repair sidewalks and add curb ramps in the coming year. About $13 million of that will come from the independent city Harbor, DWP and Airport budgets for projects on their own property.

"There's more tree trimming, fixing of our roads, cleanups of our streets and alleys - we got some really good news on all those fronts," deputy mayor Rick Cole said.

In hard numbers, increasing property and hotel tax revenues will fatten up the general fund to $5.3 billion this coming fiscal year, officials said. Special funds increase the overall city budget to $8.5 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1.

 Capital improvements represent a small portion of the proposed budget, at just 1.4 percent.

No raises

Presenting his budget to reporters, Garcetti said he was holding to his inaugural pledge of no cost of living increases in city worker salaries. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the city budget assumes no salary increases for its civilian workforce over the next two budget years. 

Six unions representing about 20,000 non-sworn workers are in mediation with the city over contracts that expired last year. Santana said any boost to employee benefits for those workers would have to come in exchange for concessions of equal cost.

One of the unions, SEIU 721, which represents about 10,000 workers, has authorized a strike, however no walkout would occur until at least midnight April 30, when the mediation period expires.

But the city agreed last month to a new contract calling for 8.2 percent in raises to LAPD officers over four years.

Neither official addressed the difference in approach for sworn versus civilian workers.

Public safety boost 

The budget sets aside $4.5 million for LAPD body cameras. The mayor hopes to secure federal matching funds to pay for cameras for 7,000 officers. If he doesn't, the city will kick in another $4.5 million.
 
"We are the largest city in the nation to commit to body cameras for every officer on patrol," Garcetti said.
 
The budget also includes an extra $5.5 million dollars from the city general fund for the Gang Reduction and Youth Development office. The proposed expansion will increase the number of gang prevention zones from 17 to 23, according to the mayor's office.
 
"That's a very good idea," said City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who sits on the budget committee. Crime fighting "should not just be about suppression."
 
Garcetti proposes increasing the LAPD budget by $100 million to $1.44 billion overall, but most of the new money -$70 million - is earmarked for overtime. A new agreement with the police union requires officers be paid overtime as they accrue it instead of banking the hours for future payout.
 
And most of the rest of the proposed increase will fund automatic pay increases based on time served and police academy classes for 475 new recruits, which is designed to maintain the number of officers at or near 10,000, depending on attrition.

Structural deficit continues

Santana said the city is track to erase its structural deficit and grow a $2.6 million surplus by the 2018-19 fiscal year. That surplus would be projected to grow to $28.5 million by the 2019-20 fiscal year.

"We'll go through the proposed budget with a fine tooth comb, hear from each city department about their needs, and listen to the public’s input," said Councilman Paul Krekorian.

His Budget and Finance Committee begins budget hearings April 28.

The budget puts a record $435 million into its rainy day reserve funds. That  is about 8 percent of the general fund budget. Previously, reserves were at about 5 percent.

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described a $120.2 million deficit projected for the 2016-17 fiscal year. That amount is the shortfall between what the city projects as revenues for the 2016-17 budget year and currently projected expenses. In addition, it misstated city services, like trimming trees, filling potholes and putting out public trash cans, were part of the capital budget. In fact, they are part of the city's operating budget. Also, the Airport, Harbor and Department of Water and Power budgets are not part of the city's $8.5 billion overall budget, as the prior version of this story stated. KPCC regrets the errors.