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$1.2-Billion Budget Plan for L.B.: More Services Sought

May 15, 1986|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Despite sharp cuts in federal grants and oil revenues, the city manager has forwarded to the City Council a $1.2-billion 1986-87 budget that, if adopted, will put another 41 police officers in uniform, boost health and human services and return city-supervised recreational activities to 1978 levels.

The fiscal plan provides for spending increases in nearly all areas of public service, including a $21.4-million, or 11.8%, boost in the $202.2-million portion of the budget over which the City Council has direct control.

This increase in services requires, however, that the city spend most of a $28.7-million budget surplus accumulated over the last several years.

Discretionary Budget

Traditional municipal services such as police and fire protection, libraries, parks, health services and city maintenance are all covered by this so-called discretionary budget.

After a series of public briefings in individual council districts, the full council will consider the budget package at a hearing June 10. It must be adopted by July 1.

The council has little control over the bulk of the $1.212-billion overall city budget, since about $1 billion is tied up in self-supporting city agencies such as the gas and water departments, the airport, waste disposal services and the harbor. The proposed overall budget is down 14% from this year's $1.415-billion budget, mostly because state oil revenues that are funneled through a city-run trust are expected to plunge by $178 million next fiscal year, said City Manager John E. Dever.

Agencies Doing Well

This plunge in revenues will have no effect on city services because the money is simply passed through the city to the state, he said.

Other self-supporting agencies are doing well, although 5% increases in garbage collection and marina slip fees--the only increases in city taxes or fees--are being proposed, he said.

The council-controlled discretionary budget reflects a recent "near-record" boom in local home, business and industrial development, which will pump about $3.5 million more in property, sales and other local taxes into the city treasury in 1986-87, Dever said.

However, the boom comes as outside economic and political forces are playing havoc with municipal income. Next fiscal year the city will lose $2.2 million in oil revenue, about $7.7 million in federal aid and $9 million in returns on investments because of declining interest rates, said Dever.

Liability Costs Jump

In addition, liability insurance costs, a nationwide problem, will cost the city $1.9 million next year, nearly three times this year's insurance expenditure, and a decrease in natural gas prices has reduced by $2.3 million or 16% the franchise fees the city will receive in 1986-87.

As a result, the city will have to spend nearly all of the large general-fund surplus it has kept for years as a safeguard against unforeseen economic downturns or emergencies, Dever said.

The city will enter the fiscal year July 1 with a $28.7-million surplus, but will have just $3.9 million left by June 30, 1987, he projected. Dever's estimates of the city surplus have been conservative. For example, his previous budget said the city would carry only $13 million into the 1986-87 fiscal year, but the surplus is now expected to be $28.7 million.

It is time to spend the surplus, Dever maintained at a press conference this week, because investors will shy away from Long Beach if they see the city is not doing its part to maintain basic services and improve the quality of life. Money should be spent to spur more private investment, he said.

Some of the new expenses covered by the surplus next fiscal year, such as the hiring of new employees, will continue into the future after the surplus is gone, Dever said. These ongoing costs will be paid for with the property and sales taxes anticipated from the current boom in residential, commercial and industrial development, he said.

Reflecting the desires of the City Council, Dever emphasized a proposed increase in manpower for public safety. He pointed to the 41-officer jump at the Police Department and the hiring of 16 additional firefighters. Together, those new employees would account for nearly all of the proposed 66-person increase in the city's work force of 4,776. The Police Department also received 30 new employees this fiscal year and has seen its budget climb from $59.6 million in 1983-84 to a proposed $77.7 million next year.

Also budgeted are a police hookup to a state computerized fingerprint identification system and a new computer-assisted dispatch system for the Fire Department. Money to complete a new Alamitos Heights fire station, scheduled to open this summer, is also in the budget. Three of the 16 firefighters would be toxic-material specialists.

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