Now's the time for Long Beach residents to speak up if they want to see new city services or programs within the next year.
Mayor Robert Garcia and City Manager Pat West on Wednesday, July 31, unveiled a $2.8 billion draft budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, kicking off the annual deliberations process for prioritizing how to spend Long Beach's money. The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
The City Council will have the ultimate say on the budget. After a series of community meetings and hearings, the panel is expected to conduct its first vote on the proposal Sept. 3. The final approval is scheduled for Sept. 10.
Most of Long Beach's budget is allocated for specific uses, meaning only about 20% of the total budget — about $554 million — can be tweaked to reflect the city's priorities.
Wednesday's proposal, if approved as is, would devote 48% of the general fund to the Police Department, 20% to the Fire Department and 8.1% to Public Works.
"We put our money where our mouth is," West said, "when it comes to public safety."
Included in the 2020 budget is money to equip all patrol officers with body-worn cameras ($1.4 million), as well as enough to add nine civilian positions to process the resulting video and to fulfill state mandates, primarily SB 1421, which requires release of public records.
"Homelessness is the single biggest issue in Long Beach. There is none bigger," Garcia said, pointing to nearly $30 million set aside to deal with homelessness issues. Most of that money, $27 million, comes from Los Angeles County and state sources, including more than $12 million to build a 125-bed homeless shelter in North Long Beach.
But Garcia also had some specific proposals he'd like to see funded, including efforts to ensure every resident is counted in the 2020 Census, an African American cultural center that's been in the works for more than a year and subsidizing transit passes for Long Beach College Promise students, some of whom learned last month they would face a significant transportation rate hike in the fall.
Garcia said he expects it will be another six months before students receive those passes, which will provide either free or discounted rides on Long Beach Transit.
"This will ensure that students are able to get to work and to school in a way that's not burdensome to them financially," he said. "We'll have a lot of details as we roll this program out in the future."
The allotment for Census outreach, meanwhile, was among the priorities community organizers championed during the "People's Budget" presentation last week.
Activists called for the budget to dedicate $500,000 toward the cause; Wednesday'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. "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 draft budget didn't go that far. Rather, it included $80,000 for a full-time hire for the Language Access Program. But officials said other demands included in activists' $530,000 wish list, such as bilingual skill pay and translation services, are already built into the budget.
Other new items Garcia and West called for Wednesday included a new adoption coordinator and support positions for Animal Care Services; two new positions to administer the city's short-term rental program; and another two new positions for HIV and STD testing and outreach.
"We believe that we can reduce HIV and STDs in Long Beach," Garcia said, pointing Long Beach's disproportionately high rate of HIV infections.
"This is a significant investment that speaks to community health," Garcia added, "and one that is now affecting not just folks who are LGBTQ, but other communities, as well."
Community budget meetings and hearings, in which residents can provide input on what they'd like to see Long Beach fund, will occur in every City Council district throughout August.
The entire budget, including a schedule of public meetings, is on the city's website, www.longbeach.gov. The budget detail is on the Financial Management Department page.
The first opportunity for the public to weigh in is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, during a special City Council meeting. It will be the first meeting in the new Bob Foster Civic Chambers, 411 W. Ocean Blvd.