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Garcia, West release Long Beach FY ‘19 budget proposals

Mayor says budget is ‘best’ of the five he has worked on

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Photos by Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune
Long Beach City Manager Patrick West (left) presents his city budget proposal during a press conference Tuesday morning at Rancho Los Alamitos. Pictured right is Mayor Robert Garcia.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and City Manager Patrick West this week presented what Garcia said is the best budget of his tenure as mayor so far.

During an overview of their Fiscal Year 2019 budget at Rancho Los Alamitos on Tuesday morning, the two leaders indicated that the City is making significant investments in areas such as homelessness, safety and infrastructure improvements.

“Of my five budgets as mayor– and this is my fifth– I think this is by far our best one yet,” Garcia said. “It is balanced. It continues to be responsible, thanks to the hard work of all of our team, and it makes critical investments in public safety, in infrastructure, in programs that help people that need our support in our community.”

Garcia also said he is proud that the City has maintained “really strong” fiscal policies and that its reserves continue to grow.

The mayor said that, through funding generated by Measure A, which voters approved in 2016, four new quality-of-life officers will be added to the police department and two HEART Team firefighters will join the fire department. The budget also allots $41 million to rebuild the police and fire academies, fund body-worn cameras and modernize communication technologies for both public-safety departments.

“The rebuilding of the police and fire academies will be the largest investment in those two facilities in many, many years,” Garcia said. “They both need to be rebuilt, and they both need to have modern facilities to train the very best police and firefighters that we can.”

He added that Fire Engine 17 will also be restored with 12 new firefighter positions added and that the Community Rapid Response Bike Team will add six police officers.

In discussing homelessness, the mayor said there are significant resources available to the City, including $12.3 million in one-time funds from the State– proposed by the Big 10 California Mayors– $3.4 million in capital funding for a year-round homeless shelter and $2.6 million from LA County’s Measure H. He added that the Everyone Home Innovation Grants will fund community organizations and neighborhood groups to reduce homelessness, the Clean Team will employ people experiencing homelessness and parking meters will provide opportunities for donations to address the issue as well.

Garcia added that, through Measure A funds, $13.4 million will be dedicated to improving streets, sidewalks, parks, playgrounds and facilities.

“This is just a sampling of what is in this budget– there is a lot more,” he said. “But some of the things that we’re doing is we are going to be moving to seven-day-a-week access for our Long Beach libraries. Right now, […] as you know, libraries are not open on Mondays. We have certain libraries that are closed many days of the week. So, this will ensure, in this new system, that there’s a library open every single day somewhere in Long Beach as we move forward.”

The mayor also said the budget makes significant investments into the local arts organizations the Museum of Latin American Art, the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Arts Council for Long Beach.

Long Beach officials discuss various aspects of the city manager’s and mayor’s budget proposal during a press conference Tuesday morning at Rancho Los Alamitos.

The budget also invests $200,000 into a youth fund programmed through a participatory budgeting process and another $200,000 into expungement of low-level marijuana convictions.

During his own portion of the overview, West said public safety is a top priority and that Measure A will preserve 108 police officers and firefighters. He added that other funds and the general fund will cover the cost of transferring 27 airport special-services officers to the police department for greater oversight. The funds will also pay for the creation of a community-services officer classification in the police department to respond to non-emergency calls.

“So, we’ll be able to have our sworn officers take care of the urgent calls, the life-threatening calls, but these [community-services officers] will respond to bike theft, a stolen car, maybe a burglary […] things like that,” West said. “So our sworn people won’t have to be spinning around and taking time out of the field to respond to things that are non-urgent.”

West said the budget addresses infrastructure and critical needs such as mobility, public facilities, parks and recreation, beaches and waterways, utilities and the airport through a $120.8-million capital-improvement program.
The budget also looks to future economic development, West said, with: a senior structural engineer and planner to facilitate high-rise development applications; a plumbing plan checker and permit technician to improve permit counter turnaround time; two analyst positions to improve community engagement on development and land-use issues; two combination building inspector positions to maintain inspection response time; and $295,000 Development Services one-times to support the General Plan land-use element, the urban design element and zoning code amendments.

West’s budget also recommends that the following needs be among those considered as priorities if new revenues or year-end surplus become available: watering costs for parks and medians that are impacted by low rainfall levels; additional maintenance for streets and sidewalks; additional maintenance for parks, recreation facilities and athletic fields; additional maintenance for buildings; and unfunded employee benefit liabilities such as the subsidy for retiree health insurance.

Officials say the city council will initiate the budget-review process at its next meeting, on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The Budget Oversight Committee will meet later this month to review the budget and provide recommendations to the full city council. Residents will also have the opportunity to provide input through a budget-priority survey as well as participate in budget hearing workshops.

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Garcia, West release Long Beach FY ‘19 budget proposals