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What’s in store
It seems like yesterday that I was on one of the upper floors of city hall getting a budget preview for the coming year. But it appears the City Council will cast final votes on next year’s spending plan on Tuesday.
The budget will become operational in October, when the city’s fiscal year starts, and with it will come some pretty big changes. On a day-to-day basis, it appears your water bills will be increasing when the Utilities Department’s budget is approved alongside the city’s budget.
It will also be more expensive to park in Belmont Shore, as the area commission voted to add an additional 50 cents to the area’s hourly parking rates.
These are largely “cost of doing business” increases. The Utilities Department is looking to make the city more resilient to drought by increasing its capacity to bring water out of local ground aquifers, something that is cheaper and potentially more sustainable than buying water from the Colorado River or Northern California.
The parking rate increases help pay for cleaning Belmont Shore’s business corridor, staff security in the area and amenities like the new gateway entry sign for the area that the commission finally approved earlier this year after a community survey helped determine the final design.
The city is entering into year two—or one, depending on what five-year plan you’re looking at—of some very ambitious Public Works projects that will bring massive changes to city corridors like Artesia Boulevard and eventually Anaheim Street, Seventh Street and Studebaker Road.
Streets like Ximeno and Clark avenues are getting long-awaited overhauls that will make the driving experience less of an adventure for your car’s tires and axles.
Nearly $16 million in residential street repairs are on the docket. Where exactly? I can’t say. (I’m still waiting on that public records request).
What’s struck me about this budget cycle is how quiet it’s been. What typically has been a more chaotic process in past years with community organizations holding press conferences and mobilizing dozens of public commenters per meeting has been bereft of demands.
If you read my story this week about a push for more money to be put into defending tenants from evictions in Long Beach, you know that Long Beach Residents Empowered has been one of those groups publicly pushing the council to act.
And on Tuesday, the council’s Budget Oversight Committee gave the group a potential win when it voted to “prioritize” $500,000 to go toward the right-to-counsel program if the city finds more money early next year. The group had been pushing for an additional $900,000.
But the “People’s Budget” that is typically put out each year by a coalition of groups that would have included LIBRE, never arrived.
I’ve been told that doesn’t mean it’s going away, and organizations plan to launch a 2024 People’s Budget next cycle.
However, just because a formal document wasn’t circulated this year doesn’t mean that those groups weren’t pushing for things like better translation services and more funding for programs that benefit the vulnerable communities they often serve.
But, future years bring budget cycles where less money is available to go around. The city has dedicated millions this year to “being creative” with employee hiring and retention. The city has a hiring problem, and an oil problem and neither of those is going to get less expensive as time goes on.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS WEEK:
COVID-19 is on the rise again and if you’re like me, you know at least a few people who have contracted the virus. While data is imperfect because of the proliferation of home tests, county and city officials have reported a rise in both cases and hospitalizations. And yes, people are still dying from COVID-19. The city says it doesn’t plan to implement any type of mask mandate in the future as cases are still below the really problematic levels of the last surge. And local businesses seem hesitant to implement a mandate if there isn’t going to be a county or city ordinance backing it. As we continue to learn to live with the virus, using your best judgement is likely going to be your best weapon in staying COVID-free. If you don’t feel well, maybe skip the parties this Labor Day weekend.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT WEEK:
While the City Council technically has until Sept. 12 to approve the budget in time for it to take effect before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, Tuesday, Sept. 5, is likely the day that the council will take its vote. On budget adoption night there are typically some last-minute negotiations that can swing tens of thousands of dollars from one pot of money to a community project or pump more money into an already established program. If there’s a project you’re specifically interested in advocating for Tuesday night might be your last opportunity to add your voice to the calls for funding. The City Council is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers, 411 W. Ocean Blvd.