On May 18, the City Council approved an on-time, balanced $11.8 billion Budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23, which begins July 1. As a member of the Budget & Finance Committee, I have spent the last month reviewing Mayor Garcetti’s proposed budget, meeting with general managers and budget officers of more than 40 City departments (from Aging to Zoo), listening to stakeholder comment, and participating in more than 40 hours of public hearings to ensure that the final Budget meets the needs of the City as a whole and the West Valley in particular.
I am proud of this Budget, which funds Citywide priorities and many individual projects for the neighborhoods and people of the Third Council District.
For the past two years, the City’s Budget has been largely shaped by the COVID pandemic: steep reductions in certain City revenues, such as hotel occupancy tax and parking revenue; increased costs to respond to immediate needs, such as COVID testing and vaccine centers, and in-home meals for seniors; a 10% cut in the City’s civilian workforce, which has affected our ability to sweep streets, pick up trash, or tow abandoned vehicles; and a $1.1 billion federal bailout that kept the City afloat.
As the economy has largely recovered from the pandemic, the City’s finances have stabilized, allowing us to draft a “back to basics”budget for FY22-23 Budget. This budget focuses on core city services like public safety and infrastructure, while also tackling problems such as homelessness and climate change.
My highest budget priority has always been public safety. This year is no different. Next year, LAPD’s budget will be $3.1 billion, the highest ever. The new budget provides funding to hire 780 new officers, well above expected attrition, to increase the size of the force by June 2023 to 9,615. We also increased funding and staffing in the Personnel Department so that we can reach that number by filling every academy class with high-caliber recruits.
The budget also boosts our Fire Department budget to $967 million. It includes funding to hire 300 additional firefighters with five new academy classes. Currently LAFD has about a 18% vacancy rate in their sworn positions, and the new recruits will provide the much needed relief to our firefighters and paramedics who have been working throughout the pandemic, administering COVID tests and vaccines, in addition to their regular firefighter duties. In addition, the Budget & Finance committee added 15 civilian positions to maintain LAFD vehicles and equipment.
Because the West Valley is threatened by wildfires, I supported funding for a new “Wildland Fuel Management Crew” that will assist LAFD with brush clearance, and be available to be dispatched throughout the City and State of California during an active fire. This can start young adults on a pathway to a firefighting crew, and I initiated a special study to explore how this can dovetail with existing youth employment programs such as the LA Conservation Corps.
Events over the past couple of years have emphasized that public safety also means creating alternatives to a uniformed, armed police response. The City is expanding our alternative response programs such as CIRCLE which deploys a nonprofit to respond to homeless-related calls that come into 9-1-1 and will be investing $8M FY 22-23 to expand the program to other parts of the City. We are investing $960K to have a trained clinician respond to suicide calls that come into 9-1-1.
The Budget substantially increases funding for the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) and the Summer Night Lights programs. That includes expanding GRYD programming to Reseda Park.
In the West Valley, more people die in traffic collisions than from homicides. While I have directed $100,000 of my discretionary funds to increased LAPD traffic enforcement against street racing, we also need to build safer streets. During the budget hearings, I successfully fought to restore 32 positions to the Department of Transportation to enhance traffic safety, including our West Valley traffic engineer and workers who build, install and maintain traffic signals, signs and striping; and to add 20 positions for active transportation projects and to address the backlog in the speed hump program. The Committee added nearly $3 million toward upgrading all unsignalized crosswalks in the City.
As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I am committed to ensuring that every Angeleno enjoys safe, well-maintained streets and sidewalks. The Budget & Finance Committee added more than $7 million to address copper wire theft, including funding and positions to repair outages, make the street lighting system more theft-resistant, and install solar-powered lights. In addition, I secured $380,800 to install new solar-powered lights along the LA River Path from Mason to Vanalden.
The new budget adds more than $15 million to the street resurfacing and slurry seal program, and continues our more than $30 million annual investment in sidewalk repair. Much of our sidewalk damage is caused by poorly-maintained street trees. Over the years, I have fought to steadily increase our tree maintenance budget to get to a best-practice 7-year trimming cycle (we are currently on a 20-year cycle), and secured a $2 million increase in the tree trimming budget. The City is conducting a comprehensive analysis of street sweeping needs across the City; in the meantime, this Budget restores early morning sweeping of all our commercial corridors.
The Budget also funds additional programs to keep the City clean, including: $46 millon for the Comprehensive Cleaning and Rapid Engagement (CARE/CARE+) program that focuses on encampments and other problem areas; $1.3 million for additional sidewalk trash receptacles; $2 million more to address illegal dumping; and $1.9 million more for the Clean and Green program.
Our parks and libraries serve everyone in Los Angeles, especially our youth. Under the City Charter, the Recreation and Parks (RAP) and Library departments are guaranteed a share of the City’s general tax revenues. While the Library’s share has proven sufficient to meet their needs, RAP is historically underfunded. The Council boosted RAPs budget by more than $14 million to enable them to fill critical positions and provide important services. Of particular interest, we added funding to reduce the cost of summer recreational programming to $10/week at parks serving disadvantaged communities, including Lanark and Reseda Parks; and added positions to ensure all Senior Centers in the City have a full time Facility Director.
Homelessness remains a focus, and the City continues to invest in homeless prevention, housing, and services. $600 million of the City’s $1.2 billion Homeless Budget will be dedicated to building 3,768 new units and beds. Solid Ground, a homeless prevention program for families will be expanded to the Canoga Park Family Source Center. And the City will continue to fund outreach workers and I will continue to fight for more funding and mental health services in the West San Fernando Valley.
As always, I work to ensure that the City funds important projects and programs in the Third District. In addition to the items mentioned above, I obtained funding for the following:
- $24.7 million to construct the Reseda Boulevard Complete Street Project
- $1.5 million to close a funding gap in the $26 million Reseda Skate Rink
- $200K for the Madrid Theater Cultural Hub/Canoga Park Stage Arts Lab Activation
- $450K to bring the Reseda Theater rehabilitation closer to realization
- $5.3 million to begin construction of the last phase of the LA River Path in the West Valley from Vanalden Avenue to the Sepulveda Basin
- $650K for the MRCA River Rangers program to help keep the River Path safe and clean
- $860K for restrooms at Serrania Park
- $500K to design improvements along the north bank of the LA River in Reseda Park
- $1 million for HVAC upgrades to the West Valley Police Station
- $2 million allocated for bulkhead projects on Mulholland Drive and Medina Road
- $125K each for the West Valley and Topanga PALS program
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