City Hall and chambers (copy)

City Council meetings take place in the Bob Foster Civc Chambers on the left, next to the new City Hall building, background. 

Another year, another $2.8 billion.

After nearly seven hours of discussions, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously early Wednesday, Sept. 4, to approve the nearly $3 billion budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins Oct. 1.

The final document largely stuck to the draft budget that city officials released in July, with a few notable exceptions.

Perhaps the most significant additions included funds to restore two critical Fire Department assets.

Fire Engine 17 in East Long Beach, which was taken out of service in 2012 due to budget cuts, will soon be reinstated; Fire Station 9 in the city’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, meanwhile, will be given the money to temporarily relocate and to determine a restoration or permanent relocation plan after the station’s long-term site was shut down in June because of mold.

“I really want to thank, particularly the council members that have worked on our fire station challenge,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “Obviously, losing Fire Station 9 has been a really difficult challenge for the community.”

Other deviations from the city’s proposed budget documents included diverting funds from Long Beach’s short-term rental program in order to preserve the city’s Office of Aging position for one more year.

Because of that decision, the kickoff for the short-term rental program will be delayed for an undetermined amount of time. The program to regulate home rentals like Airbnbs, which the council approved late last year, was set to go into effect in November.

Now, Development Services Director Linda Tatum said late Tuesday, city staff will need to come back to the panel with an estimate on how much the funding loss will push back the program’s inception.

The City Council also opted to divert about $100,000 from being spent on animation and other programming for the new City Hall’s elevators and media wall to being used for community programs like parades and concerts in different council districts.

“When we do community programming, it’s really such a nominal investment in what makes our city great,” Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said, “and what brings us all together and what makes us stronger as a city.”

City staff could look into partnerships with Cal State Long Beach or YMCA Youth Institutes, Price and Ninth District City Councilman Rex Richardson suggested, to find cheaper animations to feature in City Hall.

Bigger ticket items that Garcia and City Manager Pat West touted in their initial proposals remained in the final budget document that the council passed.

Those items included funding toward efforts to ensure every resident is counted in the 2020 Census and subsidizing transit passes for Long Beach College Promise students, some of whom learned earlier this year they would face a significant rate hike.

The allotment for Census outreach was among the priorities community organizers championed during this year’s “People’s Budget” presentation.

Activists called for the budget to dedicate $500,000 toward the cause; the city’s proposal included $600,000 for the effort. Los Angeles County has also provided a $350,000 grant to the city for Census outreach.

“I cannot tell you how incredibly seriously we’re taking the Census,” West said while unveiling the draft budget. “That’s going to be incredibly important to the city of Long Beach, so we want everyone to be counted. There’s no question about that.”

Local organizations also called for $530,000 in the city’s budget to be used for language-access services, ensuring Long Beach residents who don’t speak English still get served by the city.

The city’s budget didn’t go that far. Rather, it included $80,000 and a full-time hire for the Language Access Program. But officials said other demands included in activists’ $530,000 wish list, such as bilingual skills pay and translation services, are already built into the budget.

Other items approved in the 2020 budget included a new adoption coordinator and support positions for Animal Care Services and another two new positions for HIV and STD testing and outreach.

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