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Millions in unspent money could be added to sidewalk repair budget

Millions left unspent could be added to L.A. sidewalk repair budget for next year
Money promised for sidewalk repair should end up being spent on sidewalk repair, L.A. city councilman says

Millions of dollars budgeted to fix Los Angeles sidewalks this year -- but not spent -- would be reallocated to increase repairs next year under a plan vetted Monday by a City Council committee.

Earlier this year, city officials disclosed that despite a massive backlog of broken and damaged walkways, millions of dollars earmarked for sidewalk repairs was expected to go unspent. City officials had delayed decisions on spending the money amid uncertainty about how it might figure in negotiations in a related lawsuit. 

In April, the council finally approved a spending plan, allowing up to $10 million to be used to fix sidewalks next to parks, libraries and other city facilities. But  officials suggested all the money might not be spent before the end of the fiscal year June 30.

Any money left unencumbered would be swept back into the general city budget, officials said, meaning less money than planned might be spent repairing sidewalks. That drew complaints from critics and residents coping with buckling, broken sidewalks.

Now city officials say they want to allocate leftover money specifically for sidewalks, adding up to $7 million to the $20 million already budgeted to fix sidewalks next year. City officials expect to encumber or spend $3 million of the $10 million budgeted for sidewalk repairs in the current fiscal year.

"The remainder of that money, will in fact, be rolled over into the following year ... and be dedicated to sidewalk repairs," Councilman Paul Krekorian said Monday at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting. 

The plan, approved Monday by the budget committee, now moves to the city council and the mayor for approval. "I felt that it was very important to ensure that money that was promised for sidewalk repair in fact gets spent on sidewalk repair," Krekorian said after the Monday meeting.

Deborah Murphy, executive director of the volunteer organization Los Angeles Walks, said she was pleased by the action.

Still, Murphy said, "It would have been better to spend it this year! We need to be smarter and plan ahead so that we can spend the money we have each year on time, and have accessible sidewalks out there."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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