After multiple public, council and committee hearings, the Long Beach City Council voted to adopt the proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget during last night’s long and contentious council meeting.
Thanks to projected funds from the recently-passed Measure A initiative, the year’s budget begins the largest public infrastructure investment plan in a generation, and restores public safety services for the first time in almost a decade, Mayor Robert Garcia said Wednesday.
The budget will include:
- restoration of the Long Beach Police Department’s (LBPD) South Division, along with new officers
- restoration of fire engine service to Fire Station 8, including new firefighter positions
- new police and fire academies
- $80 million in infrastructure repairs to fix city streets, parks, libraries and public facilities
- Sunday hours at more libraries
- expansion of park programs across the city
- additional resources to address homelessness
- more support for the municipal band, Museum of Art, and the Arts Council
- new investments in technology
The budget will also secure more money set aside in the city’s reserves for a rainy day, thanks to Measure B, Garcia reported.
While the extensive list shows the city council keeping its promise to the city on using Measure A funds to add more to public safety and infrastructure, many other suggestions by council members were struck down as part of efforts to keep a structurally balanced budget, as stressed by Budget Oversight Committee Chair Stacy Mungo.
Efforts to restore the Long Beach Fire Department’s (LBFD) Rescue 12 vehicle and accompanying personnel served as the main point of contention among members of the Budget Oversight Committee (BOC)—and eventually gave way to a heated debate among the City Council—and it ultimately failed to make it into the budget. However, based on a proposal by Councilman Rex Richarson, the council agreed on a plan now that would allow for the restoration of Rescue 12 by January.
According to Councilman and BOC member Al Austin, one of the main defenders of immediately restoring Rescue 12, the restoration would mean keeping good on the city’s promise to the community.
“In the past week we’ve had two Rescues go out of service,” Austin said. “We made a commitment as the City Council to the residents to restore public safety service.”
Fellow BOC member, Councilwoman Suzie Price said there are parts of the city that have 10- to 15-minute response times for paramedics and 911 and that the city is meeting the recommended national standard of six minutes less than half the time, when responding to incidents.
“As chair of Public Safety Committee I receive calls constantly about the lack of resources we have,” Price said. “It’s important that we think mindfully on [where to better spend funds] before allocating money.”
Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce’s recommendation to re-allocate $1.5 million from Tidelands funds meant for the Belmont Pool budget to be used instead for marine safety and beach lighting was turned down, but met with an alternative by Garcia. The mayor proposed a staff report and dialogue with Pearce to find alternative funds to light the beach immediately, as a matter of public safety.
“Next year’s budget will be challenging, but thanks to the fiscally conservative approach the Council has followed, we are in a good position to meet that challenge,” Garcia stated. “I remain committed to balancing our budget while providing the level of service that residents, businesses, and visitors expect.”
Stephanie Rivera covers immigration and the north, west and central parts of Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.
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