A proposed $32.5 billion budget for Los Angeles County released this week increases spending to fight homelessness and mental illness, among other priorities.
“This recommended budget reflects the county’s values and vision, along with its ambitious commitment to improving life for all county residents, especially the vulnerable and underserved,” said L.A. County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai.
Hamai highlighted additional spending on mental health needs, including expansion of a school safety program, help for women returning to their communities after serving time in jail, and more funding for mental evaluation teams that interact with homeless individuals.
More than 180 new positions are budgeted to help support mental health services, representing the vast majority of new jobs countywide.
“As I think everybody recognizes, there is so much more that this county needs to do,” Hamai told reporters. “We all see it … we see the encampments. I think there is just a greater need to get more resources out on the street.”
The budget includes $424 million to combat and prevent homelessness—made possible by the quarter-cent sales tax imposed by Measure H—plus $15.2 million for intensive mental health interventions.
Other spending priorities include a focus on arts and recreation, including a new Department of Arts and Culture to launch July 1. Measure A dollars will help the county boost spending on parks and cultural facilities to more than $74 million.
More than $50 million in new spending is allocated to programs designed to support adoption and foster families.
Criminal justice spending includes body-worn cameras for sheriff’s deputies and the installation of cameras in Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and the Dorothy Kirby Center, as well spending to improve patient care for jail inmates.
A new voting system, set to be rolled out for the 2020 general election, is also part of the proposal.
Roughly $1 billion is earmarked for capital projects, including seismic upgrades to public hospitals. But there are still big multi-year projects deferred to future years, including upgrades to technology systems and stormwater runoff projects.
The economic outlook remains strong for the county, with preliminary estimates calling for increases in property tax rolls of more than 5.7 percent and statewide sales tax of two percent.
However, threats to the county’s balanced budget include slower future growth and $2.8 trillion in cuts to federal programs over 10 years proposed by the Trump administration.
“Those (cuts) would be profoundly devastating to our county,” Hamai said.
The county’s retirement costs could also increase significantly in future years because of lower rates of return on investment and the need to pre-fund other benefits.
To prepare for future challenges, the county plans to add $117 million to the county’s Rainy Day Fund over the next three years.
The budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, and public hearings will be held May 15.
Additions and changes are likely as the county assesses spending for the prior year and members of the board lobby for particular projects.
“The numbers will certainly go up,” Hamai said.