Los Angeles County officials released a proposed $30.8-billion budget for the next fiscal year Monday, emphasizing the need to combat and prevent homelessness and to provide crucial safety-net services.
"Of all of the issues confronting the county none is more urgent and complex than homelessness," Sachi Hamai, the county's chief executive, said at a news conference.
Hamai said the county is making "unprecedented progress" on the issue, largely because of Measure H, the countywide quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters last year that is expected to generate $355 million annually.
In the last six months of 2017, Hamai said, more than 7,000 people received temporary housing and 3,000 received permanent supportive housing.
L.A. County's homeless population has surged in recent years, reaching nearly 58,000 in 2017. A clearer picture of any effect Measure H has had so far will emerge once the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority releases its point-in-time count for 2018.
If approved, the budget for 2018-19 would allocate $374 million in Measure H funds for homeless services and prevention. Separate from Measure H funds, $45 million would go toward affordable housing and $34 million toward permanent supportive housing for those who have been in the criminal justice system.
The budget also includes $52 million for the county's child welfare agency to find permanent homes for foster youth and to support the families that take care of them. Nearly $100 million would fund a wide range of mental health and substance abuse services. An additional $2 million would go toward the establishment of two new outpatient primary care facilities in Lincoln Heights and Canoga Park.
Close to $1 billion would go toward capital projects, including two mental health facilities in the South Bay and San Fernando Valley. An additional $67 million has been budgeted for road repairs across the county.
A new item this year includes $511,000 for Bringing Our Loved Ones Home, a program to help families and caretakers find relatives with Alzheimer's disease or autism who wander off. The initiative grew out of the disappearance in 2016 of 57-year-old Nancy Paulikas, a former computer engineer who suffered from advanced Alzheimer's disease.
L.A. County's budget is one of the largest local government budgets in the country, funding a sprawling bureaucracy that includes social service, child welfare, health and public safety agencies, including more than 110,000 jobs.
It is three times the size of the budget of the city of Los Angeles, though smaller than that of New York City, which has a consolidated city-county system of government and a budget of more than $85 billion.
The county's recommended budget of $30.8 billion represents a slight decrease — of about $800 million — from last year's final adopted budget. Hamai said that was primarily because of one-time costs in last year's budget that were not renewed this year.
Hamai noted that the county has consistently received excellent credit ratings for its strong fiscal stewardship. "That approach requires us to be vigilant about potential issues down the road," she said.
Hamai cited the looming expiration next year of a federal waiver under which the county receives $440 million for foster care services, escalating costs of the In-Home Supportive Services program, and $225 million for a new touch-screen voting system to be rolled out in 2020.
The budget will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Public hearings will be held in May and budget deliberations in June.