(August 14, 2006) -- Using the North Branch LB library as a backdrop, LB Mayor Bob Foster on August 14 released city management's proposed FY 07 budget...which management said was structurally balanced and includes surpluses (link to full budget below).
And acting pursuant to the City Charter, Mayor Foster offered his own budget recommendations...which rely on management's cited surpluses to (among other things, link below) restore funding for library hours and services at libraries citywide (plus after-school assistance programs and funding the FY 07 book budget).
"This is a very happy occasion. After years of having record deficits in the city, this budget as Mr. Miller and his staff will demonstrate to you, is a structurally balanced budget, and that is good news indeed," Mayor Foster said.
The Mayor added, "While we have a structurally balanced budget, we're by no means out of the woods. As you will see in this budget, there are expenses in years ahead that are significant, that are already committed to. We have to plan for those. We have to be disciplined in our spending priorities and we have to be very disciplined about being able to meet those commitments. They're very important. They're in many areas including public safety."
Management's FY 07 spending plan doesn't propose budgeting additional neighborhood police officers...and Mayor Foster offered no dissent on this, focusing instead on retention/recruitment and filling currently budgeted positions.
Mayor Foster proposes setting aside $2.1 million (from an expected $3 million [for each of the next two fiscal years] from a Sempra Energy lawsuit settlement) to create a "Public Safety Retention and Recruitment Fund" to "expeditiously address and act on recommendations related to police officer retention and recruitment review" conducted by the City Manager.
"Police Recruitment and Retention must be carefully studied in order to clearly understand the scope, root cause and service impacts of the trend of increased transfers our of our police ranks, as well as to develop appropriate and effective solutions...[T]here remains an unacceptable gap between budgeted and filled police officer positions, and the reasons for and longer-term impact of the recent increased loss of experienced police officers must be fully understood," Mayor Foster said in his written recommendations. adding:
"I am also in full support of the City Manager's recommendation to run two Police Academies in FY 07 but also believe it is imperative that the City plan and budget to continue running two academies each year for the coming few years in order to generate as many qualified police officers as possible to grow the force to meet our changing public safety needs." [emphasis in original]
During the recent Mayoral campaign, candidate Foster pledged to add at least 100 more police officers during his first four years in office...and when asked directly by Gazette newspapers' editor Harry Saltzgaver where the 100 cops were, Mayor Foster replied:
"The 100 cops don't come all at once...One of the big problems we have, we've maintained a 9% vacancy rate. We have now about, give or take, 903 sworn officers. We're budgeted for about 998 [includes about 50 officers for special details at Port, LBCC, LBUSD, Airport, paid for by those entities] so there is a large vacancy. That's one of the reasons the City Manager and Chief Batts have now instituted two [police] academies. If we can get up to our fully budgeted number, that's nearly 100 [more] officers, but we need to go beyond that, and we really do need to put more officers on the street particularly with community policing. It's going to take time to get to that...If you look at the requirements that we have, bringing police [pay] up to the median and a few other commitments out in [FY] 09, there's $20-25 million in costs that we already anticipate. We're going to have to work real hard to get additional officers, but that's still my goal, we need to put more officers on the street."
City Manager Jerry Miller said, "I think that today in the 07 budget basically spell a new day in the City of Long Beach from a financial standpoint...We are moving from a fiscal crisis...to fiscal stability. We're moving from downsizing the organization to directed investments. We're moving from subsidies to cost recovery, from organizational management to performance management, and moving from short term solutions to long term investments [in] our core services."
City Manager Miller said 65.8% of the General Fund budget ($374 million in spending) is devoted to public safety ($246 million) and said it is "balanced structurally and it is strong for fiscal year 07."
City Manager Miller continued, "We've done a good job. We're sort of at the cross-roads I think for the City of Long Beach at least financially. I'd like to ask the Council and the Mayor to support our efforts to maintain good financial control to ensure that we achieve the Council's financial objectives with regard to the way we administer the city's funds. We're very excited that this is a budget that gives the Mayor a little opportunity to do some things that perhaps we've wanted to do for the past couple of years but couldn't afford to do."
Mayor Foster's recommended additions rely on budget surpluses forecast by management: a declared structural surplus of $1.6 million, plus $2.4 million in unallocated one-time revenues with an ending fund balance, plus approximately $2 million of additional property tax increment which NLB's North Redevelopment Project Area is expected to receive from properties located in the Port area, plus $3 million for the next two fiscal years from settlement of the Sempra Energy lawsuits [under a City Hall structured settlement, the money won't go to consumers directly and will go to City Hall.]
Mayor Foster recommends adding $2.3 million to management's proposed $16.6 million for street repairs/sidewalks, saying the city had reached a tipping point at which street repairs had to be done without undue delay on a number of major and neighborhood streets...or future costs would be higher.
To view a detailed map (displayed by Mayor Foster) showing the condition of neigborhood streets, click here [1.8 MB pdf file].
(To also view a map of major and secondary streets, click here [1.9 MB pdf file]).
Mayor Foster also recommended a special citywide election in early 2007 coinciding with an assumed special election in the 6th Council district (to fill the Council seat expected to be vacated when Councilwoman Laura Richardson, a Democrat, wins the 55th district Assembly seat in November). Mayor Foster indicated he envisions the special election to deal with Charter Amendment issues. Does he envision a tax increase measure for that ballot? "I don't envision it including a tax measure," Mayor Foster said. If the election isn't held, Mayor Foster said he favors allocating the roughly $400,000 cost to an infrastructure project that requires one-time funds.
City management said it supported Mayor Foster's recommendations.
To view management's proposed budget (caveat: 600+ pages), click here.
To view Mayor Foster's budget recommendations, click here.
Budget workshops (informational hearings) will begin August 15 (3-5 p.m., preceding the Council meeting) and will be televised. The Council can approve the proposed budget with or without the Mayor's recommendations...and can make its changes...but must act before September 30 (or management's proposed budget automatically goes into effect).
City Hall's FY 07 projected Gen'l Fund revenue sources: #1 = Secured real property taxes ($72.9 mil); #2 = Sales tax ($55 mil); #3 = Utility users taxes ($43 mil); #10 = Transient occupancy (hotel room) tax ($8.58 mil = gen'l fund share, half of total per Council).