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LA County CEO Unveils New Budget, $594 Million Short Of Current Year's

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The Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration houses several L.A. County offices. (Photo by Susanica Tam/KPCC)
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L.A. County CEO Sachi Hamai today unveiled a new recommended 2020-21 budget that was largely written before the coronavirus pandemic devastated revenues across local governments.

The proposal comes in $594.2 million under the current year budget, including a $445.6 million drop in general county funds. That decrease is mostly the result of completing "one-time funding" such as capital projects, not a direct response to COVID-19, according to a county spokesperson.

Nearly everything in next year's budget is subject to change as county leaders confront the fiscal effects of the virus: a $1 billion drop in revenues for the current fiscal year (ending June 30), and an expected "$1 billion-plus" plunge in 2020-21.

To balance the books for the remainder of this year, the CEO also announced the county will dip into one-time reserve funds and drastically slice into a projected cash balance. Before the pandemic, L.A. County had expected to end the year with a closing balance of $1.146 billion. That's been slashed to $196 million.

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What about the impact to homelessness spending -- especially through Meaure H, which is primarily funded through a taxpayer-approved sales tax increase? The county is still factoring in an unpredictable economy, but the numbers it released today look grim:

"[T]he County’s sales tax dedicated to addressing the long-standing homelessness crisis, is estimated to have a $55.9 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2020-21 and a $98.1 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2021- 22. Although the County has made major strides to address the needs, the worsening economic factors caused by this pandemic and the projected loss of critical revenues, could greatly exacerbate the region’s homelessness problem."

"Due to the subsequent impact of COVID-19, the Measure H sales tax revenue forecast will be reevaluated in a subsequent budget phase," Hamai said in a letter to county supervisors.

There are a lot of unknowns, Hamai admits.

“We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst as we chart the course ahead,” she said in a press release. “As always, we will prioritize vital services to the public and our essential role as the safety net for our most vulnerable residents.”

The budget must be adopted by the end of June, ahead of the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

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Up for some light reading? The full recommended 2020-21 budget is just shy of 1,000 pages. Both volumes are also available on on the county's website.

Volume 1:

Volume 2:

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