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Public safety at center of Eric Garcetti's new $8.57-billion budget

Mayor Eric Garcetti's proposed budget would boost gang-violence reduction

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday released his proposed $8.57-billion budget for the next fiscal year, a spending plan that would take advantage of a modest boost in tax revenue from the reviving economy to invest in public safety and city infrastructure.

After his State of the City address, which focused on new policing initiatives, the mayor’s budget proposal is further evidence that combating rising crime will be a priority for his administration as it enters its third year.

In addition to millions that would be devoted to improving the city’s trees, streets and sidewalks — all part of the “Back to Basics” agenda Garcetti championed during his first two years in office — more than $6 million would expand programs that target gangs and domestic violence.

“In this budget we’re strengthening the basic services that mean the most: crime prevention, intervention and enforcement,” Garcetti said Monday.

Such spending is enabled in part by a local economy that after years of recession appears to be on the upswing. City revenue from sources that typically rise and fall with the economy — such as property, business and sales taxes — grew 4.9% from last year, according to budget documents.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, whose staff worked with the mayor’s office to produce the budget, said the city is on track to wipe out its year-over-year, or “structural,” budget shortfall by 2018. He said the budget also carries out common-sense financial practices that haven’t always been the norm, such as setting aside reserves and money for capital projects.

“This is the strongest budget that certainly I’ve experienced,” said Santana, who has worked at the city for six years.

City officials nevertheless cautioned against exaggerating the breathing room they’ve been given by rising revenue. The new budget had to make up for a $165-million shortfall through various cost-saving measures. It also assumes no new raises or pension concessions will be given in contract talks with unions representing more than half the city’s civilian workforce.

The estimate for the city’s surplus in fiscal year 2018-19, which would be its first after years of deficits, has also been scaled back. Instead of the $23 million projected last year, Santana said he now expects the city would have a $2.6-million surplus. The worsened forecast stems in part from a cumulative 8.2% raise the city agreed to give police officers in negotiations with their union last month.

City Council members must approve the budget and will begin holding hearings on it this month.

The mayor’s budget would set aside $4.1 million to expand street cleaning and install new trash bins, as well as $1 million for cleaning park bathrooms. Tree trimming would be expanded. The budget also includes $31 million to begin fixing city sidewalks as required by a $1.3-billion legal settlement this month.

Garcetti proposes spending $5.5 million to expand the long-running Gang Reduction and Youth Development program and $567,000 to expand Domestic Abuse Response Teams. The latter are groups of civilian workers who accompany police officers on domestic-violence calls.

The public safety measures, which Garcetti announced last week in his State of the City speech, come in response to a surge in violent crime after more than a decade of declining crime. In March, the LAPD reported a 27% rise in violent crimes and a 12% rise in property crimes compared with the same period last year.

To see Garcetti's entire budget proposal, visit www.lamayor.org/openbudget.

Follow @petejamison for more news from L.A. City Hall

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