LA County Released Its New $32.5 Billion Budget. Here's Where The Money Is Going

The Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration houses several L.A. County offices. (Photo by Susanica Tam/KPCC)

There's a brand new $32.5 billion plan to run L.A. County — officials released the latest fiscal budget proposal on Monday.

One key takeaway: homelessness remains a central fiscal focus. The budget designates $424 million for homelessness — affordable housing development will get $35 million.

Measure H — which accounts for about 90 percent of the proposed homelessness budget — is funded by a ¼ cent sales tax increase that voters approved in 2017. The program is heading into its third year, and higher than anticipated sales tax revenue means there's $14.8 million more than last year's homelessness budget.

How exactly those tax dollars will be spent will be determined by the County's Office of Homeless Initiative, which budgets a litany of different programs, addressing homelessness. That homeless-specific budget breakdown will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in May. It will focus largely on how the county addresses homeless prevention.

"As I think everybody recognizes, there is so much more that this county needs to do," said Sachi Hamai, the county's CEO. "We all see it. I think there's just a greater need to get more resources out onto the street. We need to also ensure that we are also trying to prevent individuals from falling into homelessness."

Hamai expressed a similar theme at last year's budget unveil.

THERE'S ALSO MORE MONEY FOR THIS (compared to last year's budget):

  • An additional $27 million for the county's fledgling jail re-entry program, to make sure people don't become homeless after being released.
  • Additional $35 million to develop and preserve affordable housing across the county.
  • Additional $2 million and 12 positions added to the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs for rent stabilization programs, key for homelessness prevention in the unincorporated parts of L.A. County.
  • The Los Angeles County Arts Commission will transition to the Department of Arts and Culture effective July 1. The expansion will include 32 new positions.
  • Juvenile facilities such as Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce are set to get CCTV cameras. The new budget allocates $14.3 million for the purchase and installation of the new surveillance equipment.
  • The statewide gas tax is bringing in a $52.8 million increase. The funds are allocated for road repairs, maintenance and safety projects.
  • The Los Angeles County Registrar's office will hire several hundred contract and temp workers as it moves toward rolling out a new system of voting that will eliminate many neighborhood polling places. Pilot programs will begin in November 2019. The full roll-out is set to be in place by California's presidential primary election in March of 2020.
  • Mental health spending also increased in this budget. Last year, the county recommended spending $2.56 billion. This year, they asked for $2.86 billion— an increase of about $293 million. The increase includes:
    • $15.2 million across 33 mental health clinics countywide, which includes 77 new jobs.
    • $4 milion to increase the School Threat Assessment Program, a 2009 county initiative designed to prevent school violence.
    • $7.4 million to the Women's Re-entry Program (WRC) and a development of a new Women's Well-being Center. The WRC is a county rehabilitation program that gives a second chance to female parolees or probationers who may get in trouble again, when new felony offenses occur.
    • $3.1 million to fully fund 33 mental evaluation teams (co-responder teams staffed with a Department of Mental Health clinician and a sheriff's department deputy, who respond to situations involving people with mental health issues)
    • $1 million to expand the district attorney's new mental health division that would divert mentally ill inmates out of jail and into programs.
    • $1 million so that the district attorney's new mental health division can expand to divert mentally ill inmates out of jail and into treatment.

The County's proposed general fund decreased just slightly compared to last year: $25.6 billion for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year vs. $25.7 billion for the final adopted budget in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

In her recommendation to the board, Hamai wrote that she was "cautiously optimistic" that economic growth will continue for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020, but noted that growth rates have slowed in recent years.

Monday was the first step in the annual budget process. The Board of Supervisors will review the proposed budget at their meeting on Tuesday. Public hearings will take place on May 15 and the final budget is set to be approved by the end of June.

READ THE CEO'S BUDGET OVERVIEW:

Matt Tinoco, Alyssa Jeong Perry and Mary Plummer contributed reporting to this story.