In Depth / Perspective
City Mgmt Proposes FY 06 Budget With 15 More Cops, More Street Resurfacing But Fewer Library & Nature Center Days And Unfunded Muni Band; Police Chief Readies Report Proposing b/w 37-309 Add'l Officers
(August 13, 2005) -- With reporters and multiple Council offices present via staff (two Councilmembers attended personally), LB city management released its proposed spending plan for FY 06 (Oct 1/05-Sept. 30/06) at an Aug. 12 City Hall news conference.
After weighing the views of management, the Mayor and testimony forthcoming from taxpayers and interest groups at forthcoming meetings (dates below), a majority of the City Council has the ultimate power to make changes to management's proposed budget or enact it as proposed in a September vote.
However the biggest budget issue wasn't part of management's formally presented budget.
City management coupled its proposed 06 spending plan with a seismic announcement by Chief of Police Anthony Batts that during LBPD's September budget presentation, he will present for Council consideration four levels of police increases. We post Chief Batts' statement in detail below.
Three of the four increases are sufficiently large to require significant changes to management's current spending plan...or putting some type of tax increase on a forthcoming LB citywide ballot.
Management's proposed budget includes some enhancements for taxpayers including reinstating a fire engine at downtown Fire Station #1, additional arterial and residential street repairs, enhanced graffiti abatement and adding 15 more police officers -- five more than management previously indicated at a July 2005 public budget summit (budget preview).
As also previewed in July, management proposes closing the Main and North Branch Libraries two days a week (instead of one) and closing the Nature Center two days a week (instead of one). It also includes Council-approved elimination of nine school crossing guard location (optimization, management says, with more locations to be examined in 06) and ambulance billing (in final stages).
Under management's proposed budget -- the third year of a three year deficit reduction plan -- Mayor and Council spending would increase to $4.73 million in FY 06, nearly a 10% increase in spending from the $4.312 million that the Council adopted a year ago for FY 05. Two years ago in FY 04, actual Mayor/Council spending totaled $3.9 million...meaning the difference between what was spent in FY 04 and what is proposed for spending in FY 06 for the Mayor/Council represents an increase of roughly 21%.
The taxpayer cost of the City Auditor's office would grow from 1.99 million in actual spending in FY 04...to $2.46 million proposed in FY 06...a two year increase of roughly 23.6%.
Management proposes private sponsorship for the Municipal Band's six weeks of summer concerts, saving $350,000 in General Fund resources.
But it was Chief Batts' announcement that got the most attention from reporters. We post his statement in full below.
Police Chief Batts: The fact that this is the Mayor's last budget presentation, I'd like to stop for a second and give her a round of applause for her a round of applause...
Mayor O'Neill: Oh, stop that...[interrupted by applause]
Police Chief Batts: That's my Mayor. I'd like to thank you guys [reporters] for coming out and your valuable time. I have to give thank-you's to the Mayor and to the City Council for being extremely supportive of the Long Beach Police Department and public safety and they continue to be that.
I also have to extend a big hand to the City Manager who continues to be extremely supportive of this organization as we attempt to grow, and you'll see that in the presentation now.
Also I'm very happy to see that the officers have gotten a salary increase. I have to thank the POA [Police Officers Ass'n] along with Kevin Boylan [City Hall Dir. Human Resources] and their negotiations in ending that issue so we can get onto the business of fighting crime.
Also, I would like to talk about the growth of the police organization. In the next fiscal [FY 06] budget we're looking to grow the police department by 15 new police officers. Out of that 15, 10 will be coming from a COPS [federal] grant, that's the last phase of a three-phase COPS grant. And the last five are coming out of the General Fund.
The City Manager, the Mayor and the City Council have moved things out of the way to allow us to grow. They're doing that with a purpose to illustrate that public safety is a focal point for them. This is as much as the General Fund can handle at this point in time. However, it is a point to show that public safety is critical to this City.
Just recently, we had a crime spike and we were able to put 30 to 40 police officers out in the street over the last two weeks. Putting 30 to 40 police officers out for a two week period resulted in 600+ police actions.
In that 600+ police actions we had roughly 210 felony arrests, we recovered 24 guns and we detained 215 curfew violators, young people out after curfew hours.
That just shows you out of 30 to 40 more police officers on the street, their impact in solving crime for the City of Long Beach.
I have said for three years, and I will not back off of it, that this police organization needs to grow. This police department has to grow with the growth in the demand in this city.
Demand is starting to outstrip our resources to keep pace with issues taking place in our city.
I will submit to the City Council in early September at the budget presentation, my recommendations for growth, working with the City Manager for his approval. In that presentation I will give them four different models to establish a range. There will be a minimum range of roughly about 37 more officers, a moderate range of 130 to 202, and then the furthest range which will be the more costly range of 309 officers.
So the numbers on that that I will submit to them with justification will be 37, 130, 202 and 309 [additional officers].
If you reflect back on last November  with Proposition A as we tried to push that forward as L.A. County Chiefs of Police and the City of Long Beach for Proposition A -- that's the half cent sales tax [increase] -- if that had passed, although it got a large, a great response in the City of Long Beach, if it in fact had passed in L.A. County, that $23 million that that would have accounted for would have paid for anywhere from close to 130 to 150 more police officers on the streets of Long Beach.
I'd just like to bring attention to the fact that on the western borderline of the City of Long Beach is Los Angeles which is in the process of hiring somewhere close to 750+ police officers. On the northern border of the city of Long Beach is the Sheriff's Dept., who are in the process currently are hiring somewhere close to 900 Sheriff's deputies. On the eastern borderline of the City of Long Beach is Orange County, who's in the process of hiring 300 police officers.
All the agencies that surround us are increasing in size. The city of Long Beach itself is growing. And I don't know how to make it any clearer to the city that this department needs to grow, to keep pace with demand that's occurring in this city.
The General Fund, and the Mayor and the City Council are very aware of this need. With the growing of the police department, that's their indication to show how important public safety is to this City Council.
But however, I think the citizens have to be aware, and something has to be done, and we have to bring attention to it. Thank you.
Mayor Beverly O'Neill attended personally to present her recommended changes to management's proposed budget, a Charter duty she is performing for the final time since taking office in July 2004.
Mayor Beverly O'Neill's written budget recommendations to the Council on public safety funding include the following:
Given the costs associated with any increase in the number of police officers and requisite command staff, detectives and administrative staff to buttress their efforts, it is critical that additional resources are identified to support any such growth. The City Manager has engaged an outside expert to explore the possibility of a ballot measure that might generate the revenue necessary to fund incremental growth within the Police Department...I strongly support all of the above efforts, and recommend any further steps needed to bring the necessary resources to bear to implement the City Manager and Police Chief's recommendations.
During the news conference, Chief Batts indicated that for rough purposes, a new police officer (with equipment) could be calculated to cost about $100,000 year. Applying admittedly rough math: at $100,000/per officer, 37 more cops would be about $3.7 million more/year...while adding 130-309 officers would mean roughly $13-$30 million/year...money which City Hall is currently spending on other things.
If the Council votes in September to adopt management's budget basically as proposed, the Police Chief's proposed service levels effectively invite the Council to put some kind of tax increase measure of some kind on a citywide LB ballot (for police or possibly more). The next scheduled LB citywide elections come in April and June 2006...making the issue inescapable in five Council races (districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9), the voters' choices for Mayor and City Auditor.
Under a 1994 Police Dept. "Strategic Plan" proffered by then-city management and City Auditor Gary Burroughs, a preliminary staffing strategy indicated 1,023 officers by FY 00...nearly six fiscal years ago. [Chief Batts has publicly portrayed this as a "wish list." We recall that at the time, then-Police Chief Bill Ellis, speaking for management, called it LBPD's best estimate for planned growth.] Within a few years of the non-binding "Strategic Plan's" release and without audible dissent from then-city management, Auditor Burroughs or Mayor O'Neill, subsequent Councils accepted rationales for not adhering to the staffing strategy and voted to spend taxpayer resources on other things. At the same time, the Council simultaneously approved increased development. The net effect helped build the police officer deficit LB faces today.
In recent years, LB City Hall has added officers using a federal Community Oriented Police Services Universal Hiring grant (from federal taxpayers) to helped fund 26 new budgeted officers over the past two years. In FY 06, city management proposes to use the third year of the grant to add 10 more officers plus proposes to add five more officers funded directly by the General Fund to produce a total of 15 more budgeted in FY 06. The officers are for use in neighborhoods citywide.
These neighborhood officers are separate from roughly two dozen other officers (29 proposed in FY 06) who handle specialized security tasks at the Port and Airport, paid for by LGB and PoLB, plus nearly a dozen other officers separately contracted for (and paid by) LBCC, LBUSD and [L.A. County] Carmelitos.
After deducting the specialized officers, by our rough reckoning LB's neighborhood budgeted 05 neighborhood police level is in the range of about 930 officers...and if the Council adopts management's FY 06 budget as proposed could be roughly 945 officers. [Caveat: budgeted officers differ from officers hired and ready for service, both of which commonly fluctuate].
In terms of police officers per population, LB's most recent population (per CA Dept. of Finance) was 491,564. 491.5/930 (budgeted officers 05 per thousand population) = ~1.89 officers/1,000 population. 491.5/945 (mgt. proposed budgeted officers FY 06 per thousand population) = ~1.92 officers/1,000 population.
In addition to her public safety recommendation (above), Mayor O'Neill's other recommendations include:
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- Recommend that the Municipal Band Concerts be returned to an eight-weeek schedule, to possibly include performances in districts currently not represented. We encourage the pursuit of private sponsorships for these popular event, as well as recommend that the City Manager pursue funding from non-General Fund sources.
- Recommend the reinstatement of the City's support for an annual 4th of July fireworks show, displayed off our coastline at a location to be determined by the City Manager, and to be funded from non-General Fund sources
- Recommend that we rescind the reduction in educational programming and services to youth included in the Updated Financial Strategic Plan (General Fund cost = $223,498). [Doesn't affect library closed days/hours]
Assistant City Manager Christine Shippey said City Manager Miller gave her explicit instructions in his absence (caused a family emergency) to remember to thank Mayor O'Neill. "[Mayor O'Neill has] provided strength, she's provided wisdom, vision, leadership to the city," Assistant City Manager Shippey said. She also thanked the Council for "their continued dedication to fiscal discipline, because there's been some tough stuff that needed to be taken care of in the last few years and our City Council has stayed the course."
Management's budget extends a three-year deficit reduction plan into a fourth year...leaving $10 million more in admittedly difficult budget cuts to one year from now.
Management said its deficit reduction plan has eliminated a $92 million of structural deficit in the past three years. Budget Chief Mike Killebrew said the plan was always meant to be flexible and extending the plan into a fourth year was prompted in part by a recently reached agreement with the LB Police Officers Association (which included sizable pay increases; LB officers had no salary increase since 2001 and POA says the increase is to reach parity with similar local agencies). City management is currently in negotiations with the LB Firefighters Association and other city employees.
Management also cited the need to make infrastructure repairs...and Assistant City Manager Christine Shippey (presenting the budget in Mr. Miller's absence, due to a family emergency) said the photo (left) on the budget document cover was personally selected by City Manager Miller because "it represents a work in progress...[I]t's a budget that invests in our infrastructure and our streets, so very literally this is street work that's going on. And then finally,...it recognizes our line workers, the people that are out on the streets providing services..."
A City Hall release says, "Adding a fourth year in the Plan will allow the City to utilize natural revenue growth to make needed investments in public safety and the City’s critical infrastructure."
City management said deferred maintenance of residential cannot continue...and Public Works Director Christine Andersen said that as streets move from good to fair, the next step from fair to poor/very poor means costly, reconstruction, not just resurfacing.
Accordingly, LB Public Works will focus on resurfacing streets in fair condition instead of reconstructing all those in the worst condition...since focusing on the fair streets will produce more street miles repaired at less cost.
City management's deficit reduction plan originated followed the Council's decision to increase budgeted spending after 9/11 in the period leading up to the 2002 elections. Although revenue lagged spending, voters returned Mayor O'Neill and Council incumbents to office after supporters said City Hall was "on the right track." After being returned to office, the Council increased city employee pensions and Mayor O'Neill announced LB City Hall faced a ballooning deficit. A month later, the Council terminated its then-City Manager...and by early 2003, interim City Manager Miller had unveiled a three-year plan to deal with what he said could have grown into a gaping $102 million deficit by FY 06 if not corrected.
Management's proposed FY 06 budget -- reflecting the third year of management's deficit reduction plan -- reduces the structural deficit by $22.5 million on top of roughly $70 million of the deficit reduced in the previous two years. The $92 million of structural deficit reduction over three years (FY 04-06) leaves $10 million for the future.
Mr. Killebrew confirmed that management's FY 06 budget as proposed assumes payment of Queen Mary rent which City Hall says the Queen Mary operator owes (and the Queen Mary operator, currently seeking bankruptcy protection, says it doesn't owe). (A Press-Telegram report said the sum exceeded $4 million some time ago).
We asked what happens if the $4+ million budgeted as receivable isn't received. "Then it would affect the balance of the Tidelands fund and we'll have to deal with it at that point. We still expect to receive it," Mr. Killebrew said. Expect to receive all of it? "Absolutely."
The Council's Budget Oversight Committee Chair, Councilwoman Laura Richardson (pouring over figures, right) and Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga (tuned into a verbal presentation) attended the budget release. In July, Councilwoman Richardson indicated at the public budget summit (previously reported in detail by LBReport.com) that she believes City Hall has a strong case to make in support of a revenue increase.
We buttonholed Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga as the Aug. 12 event unwound. What about a proposed tax increase for more cops? "With the half cent sales tax increase proposed for the County we were almost there, so I think the community is going in the right direction with that. People continue to say public safety is the top priority but we need to pay for it." So does Councilwoman Reyes Uranga support putting something on the ballot? "I think we're going to have to. I don't see any way around it. If you look at the budget it's bare bones as it is now."
A Council vote on the FY 06 budget will come in September after hearing comment from taxpayers and interest groups. For much of the O'Neill administration, Council budget votes went smoothly without significant dissent...in contrast to previous LB administrations and legislative bodies in other cities, and at the state and federal level where budget votes are among the most contentious.
Some have attributed LB City Hall's relatively smooth sailing to City Manager Jerry Miller's dexterous handling of the budget. Management has taken pains to make budget documents more readable and more accessible via the internet; its proposed FY 06 budget is available to the public in detailed, digital form on City Hall's website: www.longbeach.gov (specific page click here). [Comment: Kudos to LB city management for this, in our opinion a real public service.]
City Manager Miller and his budget chief, Mike Killebrew, also instituted a new approach to budgeting in FY 06: "Focus On Results (FOR) Long Beach" which plans, budgets, measures, communicates and evaluates results. Mr. Killebrew spoke at length about this process...and indicated that focusing on results (instead of just figures) has helped bring about a different culture at City Hall. "The key question we ask now is: is this working?" Mr. Killebrew said.
"Past city budgets were divided by individual divisions within city departments. The new document shifts the focus onto city services that receive funding," a City Hall release said. "For example, last year's Community Development budget described spending in categories such as "salaries, wages and benefits" and "materials, supplies and services." This year, the department's budget explains specific spending on categories such as housing, youth development and code enforcement," the release said.
Finally, management convened budget summits to which the public was invited -- "voice your choice" events scheduled at midsummer -- effectively offering the public a budget preview and a venue for venting before the budget reaches the Council.
Whether this year's budget vote is again quiet -- with the focus on public safety and a possible a tax increase -- remains to be seen.
City Hall has scheduled the following meetings to present the FY 06 Budget and obtain community feedback regarding the budget. (Caveat: If the Council votes to adopt the budget early in the process, subsequent meetings won't be held.)
August 16, 2005, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.: City Council Budget Workshop
August 23, 2005, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. City Council Joint Budget Oversight Committee and Budget Workshop
August 23, 2005, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. City Council Budget Hearing
September 6, 2005, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. City Council Budget Workshop
September 6, 2005, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. City Council Budget Hearing
September 13, 2005, 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. City Council Budget Workshop
September 13, 2005, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m City Council Budget Hearing
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