Long Beach, with a final round of pandemic-era funding, would avoid a budget deficit for the 2023 fiscal year with a proposed $3.2 billion budget — while also increasing investments in city infrastructure, homelessness and public safety.
The city’s projected $20.2 million budget deficit for the 2023 fiscal year — which starts Oct. 1 — will be covered by one last disbursement of COVID-19 relief funding through the Long Beach Recovery Act, along with one-time payments from several other sources, city officials said.
Long Beach on Tuesday, Aug. 2, unveiled its proposed budget for next fiscal year, which needs City Council approval.
“We previously thought last year this would be a really tough year for us, where we’re making a number of reductions.” City Manager Tom Modica said during a budget presentation in the Civic Chambers on Tuesday. “We’re able to maintain services this year. And in fact we’re able to go beyond.”
Besides the general fund — at $14 million — not having a deficit, officials said, the city also didn’t have to deplete its emergency reserve funds, which tallied $47.8 million. The budget proposal also includes a $2 million reserve for unexpected labor or other critical costs that could occur over the next year.
“This budget continues to maintain full city reserves and they’re back at pre-pandemic levels,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “One commitment we made early on was to not ever deplete our reserves — and now they’re fully replenished.”
But balancing next year’s budget may prove an even bigger challenge, Modica said, as the city currently projects a $25.6 million shortfall without help from the Recovery Act — though that number could decrease significantly over the next several months.
“We do hope the economic recovery will continue,” Modica said. “You never know what the future is gonna hold.”
The proposed budget will undergo a series of City Council, Budget Oversight Committee, and public meetings for discussion and potential revisions before its final approval in September.
In the meantime, Long Beach’s $3.2 billion budget allocates funds to different needs across the city, with a focus on infrastructure, homelessness, public safety and climate action.
Long Beach is looking to bolster its services for unhoused people throughout the city as that number continues growing — with this year’s point-in-time homelessness survey finding a 62% spike in the homeless population over the last two years.
The city counted 3,296 people who were homeless this year, up from 2,034 in 2020. Of those, 69% were unsheltered, according to the city’s July 1 published report on the survey.
The budget proposes a third addition to Long Beach’s Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health teams — also known as REACH — which provide folks in need with a direct line to resources for temporary or permanent housing, mental and physical health services, and other forms of help.
There are already two REACH teams at work, each composed of one public health nurse, one mental health clinician and two homeless services outreach workers who use the city’s REACH vans to respond to emergency calls that require their expertise.
Mayor Robert Garcia called for the REACH expansion earlier this year, arguing that a staffing increase would allow the team to operate on the weekend. It’s estimated to cost around $500,000 to add the third team.
The city is also looking to add two counselor’s to Long Beach’s call center, which connects unhoused people with city resources.
Long Beach’s budget also proposes a $2.1 million allocation of Measure A — a 1% voter approved sales-tax measure — to a clean–up initiative along the city’s riverbeds.
Another $350,000 has been earmarked to fund rapid-response homeless encampment clean ups, outreach and large-scale encampment cleanups in parks and other open spaces.
The city would also add $250,000 to its towing fund, which would be used to waive towing fees for unhoused people who may be living in their vehicles.
“We’re providing some relief,” Modica said.
In total, the budget carved out $77 million for homeless services, according to the city, $50 million of which would go toward filling out the city’s interim and permanent housing opportunities.
Another $20 million would be invested in homeless services, including access to physical and mental health care, Modica said. Another $6 million would fund the Multi-Service Center’s operating budget for the coming year.
“The vast majority of that is really to provide support for people,” Modica said.
Under the proposed budget, the Long Beach Police Department would create a new Collaborative Response and Engagement Bureau — and add 20 new police officers to its ranks.
“There’s a lot of changes with the new (Police) Chief,” Modica said, “who comes with different ideas and different ways to structure.”
Of the new officers, 16 would serve on the LBPD’s bike beat.
The City Council considered and unanimously approved an increase to the LBPD’s bike beat officers in early July. Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who initially proposed the item, argued that bike beat officers are less threatening and more likely to create strong connections within the communities they serve.
“The important piece of this is that the council has already been discussing adding these types of officers over the last several months,” Garcia said. “This really speaks to that need and success that we have had with our community policing programs.”
Currently, the city pays $1.5 million to fund its bicycle beat cop unit, which consists of four officers and one sergeant, said LBPD officer Paige White in a previous statement. That unit is assigned to the South Patrol Division, from Anaheim Street southward to Harbor Scenic Drive and from the Los Angeles River eastward to Cherry Avenue.
All four LBPD divisions would have four bike officers under the proposed budget, Modica said.
The other four LBPD additions would serve as “Quality-of-Life” officers, Modica said, who would largely be tasked with assisting the city’s overall homeless outreach, response and encampment cleanup efforts.
Long Beach also plans to convert its existing Park Ranger program — which employs five full-time park rangers to monitor just five parks around the city — to a new Park Safety Ambassador program.
Funding from the park ranger fund would be repurposed to hire about 12 unarmed park ambassadors, who would ensure bathrooms at all of Long Beach’s parks are closed in the evening hours to prevent damage to the facilities.
The park ambassadors would also carry out minor park repairs.
Addressing Climate Change
Long Beach would also create a new department: The Office of Climate Action.
The department would be housed within the City Manager’s office and would work jointly with the Office of Sustainability.
“This is a key new office that’s going to be fully staffed and focus on the critical challenge that we face as a community and as a plan in the future,” Garcia said. “And that’s of course climate change.”
The proposed budget includes funding four four-full time jobs within that office.
“We thought it’d be a great way to organize all the efforts into one office and have a key leader direct all these efforts citywide,” Garcia said, noting they’ll also be expected to play a watchdog role for other environmentally focused city initiatives.
The city would add a public affairs assistant in the Energy Resources Department to better communicate the city’s climate change strategies, an additional planner to implement the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan tasks, and an additional building inspector to support oil well inspections.
Long Beach is also considering a $200,000 “oil liability” assessment, which would attempt to determine the city’s financial and legal ties to the oil industry — and how feasible a move away from that industry would be in the future.
It’s unclear at this point when that study is expected to get underway.
Garcia, in a separate proposal, asked that Long Beach’s budget include additional funding to support programming and operations at the Cambodian American Cultural Center, Latino Cultural Center and the African American Cultural Center, as well as Long Beach Heritage Museum preservation.
Garcia is also asking to include $100,000 toward developing an LGBTQ cultural center and museum in the city.
The City Council and Budget Oversight Committee will host several budget-related meeting prior to its final approval in September. Find more information on dates on the city’s website.