Long Beach's new budget to invest last year's surplus

[aesop_character name=”CJ Dablo” caption=”Staff Writer ” align=”right” force_circle=”off”] The clock has reset on Long Beach’s Fiscal Year 2017, now that the city council has approved the new budget that begins Oct. 1.
When Mayor Robert Garcia originally presented his recommendations for the budget back in August, he reported that $600,000 had been left over from Fiscal Year 2016 and requested that the council disburse it for the upcoming year. If that wasn’t good enough news, the council also determined the fate of two additional surplus funds: $70,000 in the general fund temporary surplus and $521,000 of money reserved for “litigation and liabilities that are no longer needed for their original purposes.”
On Sept. 13, the council unanimously approved a motion to appropriate the money to the following departments:
• $280,000 in the Health and Human Services Department for Homelessness Rapid Response
• $150,000 in the Public Works Department for tree-stump removal
• $96,000 in the Parks, Recreation & Marine Department for the expansion of the Be S.A.F.E. Program to four more locations
• $65,000 in the Library Services Department for the expansion of Sunday library hours to a fourth location
• $130,000 in the Health and Human Services Department for a public-health professional in the Office of Equity
• $220,000 in the Financial Management Department for local investigation, wage theft enforcement services
• $250,000 for capital infrastructure, economic development or existing City programming, to be divided by nine for the city council districts.
Public safety was also a major priority for the council. Most significantly, it set aside $500,000 of the $2.2 million for police overtime in the city manager’s proposed general-fund strategic one-time investments. That half-million amount will help pay for the Neighborhood Safe Streets Initiative. In addition, the council approved an appropriation of $250,000 each from Proposition H available funds to the police and fire departments for the Homelessness Rapid Response program. Public safety already represented 69 percent of the overall general fund in the mayor’s original budget recommendations.
The outlook for the general fund seemed favorable. According to a staff report, the general-fund revenue is expected to grow by 8.4 percent over the previous fiscal year. The FY17 budget also approves one new major source of revenue: $35.6 million from Measure A, which increases the sales tax in the city beginning next year. Property tax revenues are also expected to increase.
The possibility of expanding library hours was especially good news for Margaret Smith, a representative of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. She appeared before the council on Sept. 13 to praise the city leaders for recognizing the need for Sunday hours, explaining that the additional time offers a valuable opportunity for those who work Monday through Saturday to be with their families in a library and take advantage of cultural and educational resources.
“And we hope that in future budget discussions, there will be an opportunity to fund Sunday hours for every single library in Long Beach,” Smith said before the council voted on the budget. “In this information age, libraries are more important than ever to everyone, everyday of the week.”
Smith said she hopes the library will use that additional $65,000 to fund Sunday hours for the El Dorado Neighborhood Library.

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