Residents call for more funding for neighborhood services in first budget hearing session • Long Beach Post News

The virtual meeting was the first of two this week where Long Beach management and city department heads will listen to the public’s priorities for the upcoming budget, which is expected to be released in July. This year is the first year the city is collecting public feedback before the document is released. It is usually adopted with limited modifications after being revealed.

“I hope to retire and die in this city, but there are times when I want to leave because I feel like we’re not dealing with homelessness the way we should,” said Kay Gatlin , who said she recently became a landlady in the city.

The meeting, which lasted just under two hours, was a way for the city to try to assess residents’ priorities heading into what could be a tough budget season.

The cuts were averted last year when a massive influx of state and federal COVID-19 aid allowed the city to replenish depleted supplies, operate coronavirus testing sites and provide monetary assistance to tenants and businesses. However, this kind of lifeline is not expected this year.

The hole in the budget due to pass by September was originally expected to be $36 million, but a revision is expected to reduce that shortfall in the coming months.

City Manager Tom Modica said the budget is really an exercise in trying to figure out which priority is more important than the other, but he hopes the economy has rebounded to a point where the city doesn’t have to do too much. cuts for the next fiscal year, which begins in October.

Veronica Garcia Davalos, the new executive director of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, which raises funds for the city’s 12 libraries, said programs and goals promoted by the city, such as early education , investment in young people and greater digital inclusion, require more funding for the city’s library system.

“We are concerned that the ability to promote equity will be affected by structural budget cuts,” Garcia Davalos said, adding that the city should join Los Angeles and other municipalities in eliminating the fee for good. books behind in order to remove another barrier to learning.

Libraries have one of the smallest departmental budgets, receiving just $15.3 million in funding out of the city’s $634 million general fund during last year’s budget cycle.

For years, community groups have demanded that the city cut funding to the Long Beach Police Department, which received about $285 million this year, about half of the city’s entire general fund. Some residents have asked for funds to fund more neighborhood services instead, and that continued on Tuesday.

“I’m glad we’re having these sessions with the community, but I’m hoping to see a lot of those requests reflected in the city manager’s proposed budget,” said Joanna Diaz, who said the police department has become too militarized. .

The city council pushed back on any discussion of police cuts in August, saying cutting funding by any amount would be “irresponsible”.

Other participants said more funding is needed for police and other public safety agencies to ensure that when residents call for help, they are able to respond in a timely manner.

Jeff Hoffman said the city may be trying to do too much with its financial resources and maybe it should do less.

“I’m really focused on the basics, public safety, infrastructure, streets, etc.,” Hoffman said. “I think the rest is important, but if we’re looking at a budget that might have less money available, I’d focus on the basics and maybe some of the sauce that we’ll have to set aside for a while. .”

A second virtual meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 27 at 5:30 p.m. A link to register to attend can be found here. A community budget survey that is open until January 28 can be found here.

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