In the midst of an extraordinary year which has seen unprecedented damage to the City’s revenue stream due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Council Monday unanimously approved a balanced 2021 Fiscal Year budget.
The approved budget is comprised of $273,011,522 in recommended appropriations in the General Fund and $878,636,771 in all other funds.
The budget reflects approximately $2.47 million in reductions even after covering the Rose Bowl Operating Company’s annual debt service of $8.2 million.
The City’s fiscal year starts in just two weeks on July 1, 2020.
The majority of the budget was prepared prior to the “Stay At Home” orders and therefore reflected “a much different fiscal environment,” which the Council and Mayor acknowledged.
The new budget also includes an $500,000 increase in the General Fund for youth support and training opportunities; an increase of $3,372,793 in the Emergency Shelter Grant Fund, which represents the second allocation of ESG (Emergency Solutions Grant)-CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funding awarded to the Housing Department;
The budget also adds $208,919 in the Public Health Fund, as additional funding from Los Angeles County and First 5 LA was authorized for the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program through June 30, 2021.
While much of the Council discussion centered around changes to police department spending priorities, no council member advocated “defunding” the police, as protesters have demanded, and which has now become part of the national conversation.
In fact, while Chief John Perez said recently that some police department policies and priorities should change to reflect the community’s concerns, the budget reflects increases to the 2021 police budget.
Both Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton and Councilmember John Kennedy spoke out against defunding the police.
“I am against reducing the police budget, since they have so far this year taken 160 guns off our streets,” said Kennedy, a former civilian assistant police chief in Richmond, Virginia, who added, “We need police.”
Both Kennedy and Hampton also said that they have long been in favor of police civilian oversight, which was discussed but never acted upon in 2016.
Mayor Terry Tornek was clearly affected by the recent demonstrations in the City, as well as the scores of comments read aloud during the meeting, which asked the council to rethink the City’s spending.
As resident VIncent De Stefano wrote to the council, “Pasadena spent nearly half a million dollars for a replacement camera for one of its four helicopters. Now we are about to increase the police department budget by $1.5 million…Put that money in better health services, assistance for the unemployed, the homeless and finally insecure.”
During the nearly 2. 5 hour budget discussion, Tornek wondered whether the City might eventually “totally rethink” the budget, moving forward.
“This is a very different discussion now,” he said. “A new conversation has been started by the community. We need to look at the human service part of the budget. That’s the transparency we need.”
“But,” Tornek added, “A symbolic slashing (of the police budget) is not the way to go about it.” Tornek said that the Council will continue to discuss rethinking the police department.
Councilmember Margaret McAustin also noted, “The budget is a moral document that reflects the values of our city.” Discussing sweeping changes that could eventually reshape the city’s budgets in years to come, McAustin said, “It will take some time, but we have to do it. We have to engage the community.”
Although, according to the staff report, the City entered the COVID-19 pandemic in a strong fiscal position, the projected economic losses are “significant and unprecedented.”
Facing a host of economic questions posed by the pandemic, City staff changed course during the annual budget process and modified its original plans in order to present a balanced Operating Budget while preserving essential services, the report noted..
Approximately $8.5 million in General Fund dollars from Measure I originally intended for the FY 2021-2025 CIP Budget, was reappropriated.
In addition, said the report, he Recommended FY 2021 Operating Budget is balanced without drawing upon the General Fund reserves.
“Nevertheless,” said the report, “staff will continue to monitor the financial realities of this public health crisis and recommend additional budget adjustments, if necessary.”