With no more than a few tweaks in discretionary spending, the Long Beach City Council approved the city’s Fiscal 2015-16 spending plan Tuesday night.
That approval includes funds totaling $2.7 billion, with most of that amount restricted to specific funds including Harbor, Water, Airport and Tidelands. The General Fund, where police, fire, library and most other public services are budgeted, totals $412 million.
Discussion Tuesday centered around recommendations made by the Budget Oversight Committee chaired by Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and including Councilwomen Suzie Price (Third) and Stacy Mungo (Fifth).
The BOC’s first recommendation was to accept Mayor Robert Garcia’s recommended changes. Those changes added $795,000 in spending, including Sunday hours for three branch libraries, support for the My Brother’s Keeper and BE SAFE programs and purchase of two Clean Team trucks.
Lowenthal announced that the three libraries with Sunday hours would be the Bay Shore, Burnett and North branches — a decision made by the Library Services administration. She then listed a series of spending changes, mostly small, recommended by the BOC.
In the one item impacting personnel, the recommendation was to restore a proposed reduction of a Marine Safety sergeant boat operator position. The $140,000 for that spot comes from Tidelands Fund money in the City Manager, Parks, Recreation and Marine, and Economic and Property Development departments.
In what has become standard procedure in the last few years, the BOC carved out infrastructure money to be divided up equally amongst council districts. This year, that amount is $2,666,000 — about $300,000 per council member. Most of that money must be used for infrastructure, with changes in use brought back to the full council for approval — a limitation protested by Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson and Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga.
“I think we need to be able to use that money so it best serves our districts,” Richardson said. “We would be responsible, of course… But I think we should have flexibility for up to 50%.”
“I want to have discretion over my discretionary funds,” Uranga added.
In response, Lowenthal amended her motion to allow spending on programs as well as infrastructure, as long as the program already exists.
A series of smaller spending recommendations brought more discussion, particularly about extra money for the Municipal Band. The BOC recommended setting aside $30,000 to match money raised by Friends of the Municipal Band to add a sixth week to the summer series — four more concerts.
Several council members whose districts are not visited by the Municipal Band asked about the fairness of the support. Richardson noted that a Concerts in the Park program supported by individual council districts are drawing as well as some Municipal Band concerts at much lower cost. First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez asked that the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department consider ways to expand the band’s reach.
Other spending includes $50,000 each to Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos. The money is for maintenance at Los Cerritos and engineering for a seismic retrofit at Los Alamitos. Richardson again said he would support the spending, but noted that it benefited one part of the city.
“I know people say they are citywide assets,” Richardson said. “Well, I could say the Houghton Park clubhouse is a citywide asset, too.”
Richardson had the last word, as well, warning that the council may be asked to review budget decisions to respond to changes in Fire Department deployment. Advanced Life Support ambulances will be reduced soon to respond to mandated changes in paramedic staffing.
Ultimately, the entire budget passed unanimously. It goes into effect on Oct. 1.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budget Highlights for the 9th District & the Road map to Renaissance
- $30,000 allocation for the Long Beach My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to assist with the development of the MBK Local Action Plan, an initiative I partnered with Mayor Garcia and the City Council to lead in November 2014.
- Up to $250,000 for the City Prosecutor's Office to coordinate the Promising Adults, Tomorrow's Hope (P.A.T.H.) Program, an initiative led by my office in partnership with our City Prosecutor and Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Board, which diverts disconnected out-of-school and out-of-work young adults under 25, who make a mistake, into education and workforce programs as an alternative to criminal prosecution.
- $186,000 to expand the successful "Be S.A.F.E." summer youth recreation program throughout park sites across the city.
- $183,000 to pilot Library Sunday hours to three branches citywide, including the North Branch Library.
- A new Veteran's Affairs Coordinator to help support the new Veteran's Affairs commission, an effort led by my office with the purpose of better supporting the veteran community of Long Beach.
- And additional investments toward infrastructure, park programming, and public safety training and resources.
I want to thank Mayor Garcia for his leadership, Vice Mayor Lowenthal for her hard work as chair of the Budget Oversight Committee, and the City Council for their dedication to passing an equitable, fair, and balanced budget.
Secondly, tonight we created a landmark local hire initiative and pilot program, called "Long Beach First." Long Beach First will serve as the City’s pipeline to connect Long Beach residents to employment opportunities created through City contracts.
This program connects people who are looking for jobs with training programs and employment to employers for consideration in filling new vacancies with local residents. The implementation will apply to awards for non-professional services above $100,000, and construction projects between $100,000 and $500,000 for a period of two years.
We know that given the right opportunity, Long Beach residents will rise to the occasion, and the Long Beach First policy does just that. It provides our residents a first shot at every net new job created through our city's bidding process. Policies like these are recognized by the White House's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative as a best practice for providing direct access to employment for young adults and disadvantaged communities. I want to thank First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez for her leadership and partnership on this initiative, as well as Councilmembers Uranga and Andrews for their cosponsorship.
These are all great steps on the "Road to the Renaissance." I want to thank the staff and residents who all contributed to these victories. Keep up the good work!