Here’s what you need to know about Long Beach’s 2020 budget proposal

Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

Long Beach City officials held the first press conference Wednesday, July 31, in the new civic center during which they broke down the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Long Beach budget, which currently stands at $2.8 billion.

Allocating city funds to tackle homelessness and the announcement of new city services was at the forefront of this year’s Long Beach budget proposal presentation for Fiscal Year 2020.

Mayor Robert Garcia and City Manager Patrick West conducted the first press conference inside the new city hall building Wednesday during which they presented how the city will budget $2.8 billion across various programs and services if the city council approves the proposal on Sept. 10.

The budget proposal is “financially responsible” Garcia said, however, the city is forecasting economic shortfalls and challenges in about two year’s time.

Homelessness
“I want to start by addressing what is the single biggest challenge we have in Long Beach and that is addressing homelessness,” Garcia said. “There is no larger challenge that we face as a city.”

The proposal this year includes about $30 million in total funding to address homelessness as compared to $27 million from federal, state and county grants awarded during last year’s press conference.

The city said it has helped over 5,000 people move into permanent housing since 2013.

The proposal indicates that the $30 million funds this year will address the goals put forth by the Everyone Home Long Beach report, which includes operating the Housing Navigation Center. The center will offer transients a safe place to store their personal belongings without worrying about having their things stolen.

City manager West said fear of having personal items stolen is preventing some homeless individuals to take trips to the clinic or housing appointments.

“Right now we’re finding that possessions are keeping people from going into doctors’ offices because they can’t take their shopping cart and all their other things,” West said.

2020 Census
The city has also allocated $1 million to address redistricting efforts and Census counting for 2020.

“The Census is an extremely important part of this budget,” Garcia said. “If we’re not completely counted, we will lose federal funds in the future.”

Bus Pass
While homelessness took up most of the opening presentation, city officials announced three new services that would address transit for Long Beach students, HIV and STD levels citywide and neighborhood cleanliness.

The first is a Promise Pass program for students. If approved, the city would partner with Long Beach Transit to provide free or low-cost bus passes to Long Beach Promise students who attend Long Beach City College or California State University, Long Beach. Garcia said $350,000 from Long Beach Transit funds and city funds have been set aside to support the new program.

“For us to really be able to support more students and create a true pass […] we are going to be creating a group with the [school] presidents to develop this Promise Pass,” Garcia said.

HIV Testing
The mayor announced $500,000 would fund a new initiative called the HIV/ STD Strategy aimed at reducing the levels of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in Long Beach.

The city’s health department will conduct HIV studies for the next two years.

“We believe that we can reduce HIV and STDs in Long Beach,” Garcia said. “This is a significant investment that speaks to community health, and one that is affecting not just folks who are LGBTQ, but other communities particularly in north Long Beach that we’ve seen.”

Clean Crews
In 2017, Garcia announced that four clean-up crews would patrol the city’s streets and clean up blight in the alleys. For Fiscal Year 2020, Garcia is announcing a fourth community-cleaning crew.

“I do believe that Long Beach can be the cleanest big city in the United States,” Garcia said. “We are now aggressively cleaning corridors and streets all across the city.”

Public Safety
From the $2.8 billion total funds, the general fund is made up of $554 million. Public safety accounts for 71% of the general fund, according to West. Two years ago when Garcia announced the 2018 Fiscal Year budget, public safety accounted for less that 70% of the general fund.

Measure A funds have been a key component to the city’s investment in public safety. The Fiscal Year 2020 proposal will support 121 positions within the fire and police departments. One-time funds have allowed for more officers to carry body-worn cameras, and the budget for 2020 will continue to invest in that.

Pensions
Garcia also claimed that pension liabilities is something the city has worked to reduce overtime. Currently, city pensions stand at $1 billion as opposed to $1.8 billion five years ago, the mayor said.

Over the next five years, Garcia said the number will go up and down depending on the year, but it will continue to decline overall.

“We are reducing and cutting that long-term pension liability at the city, and I think that is very important,” the mayor said.

Other Highlights
The city is comprised of 23 departments and 38 financial funds, including:

•Enterprise Fund: $1 billion for city-service charges
•Capital Projects Fund: $85 million for carrying out construction citywide
•General Fund: $554 million for parks, police and public services collected via taxes and fees