Our Budget, our Values
It is often said that a budget is a reflection of our values. This is why Councilmember Ryu has said that cutting social services for our most vulnerable Angelenos is unacceptable. Councilmember Ryu believes that every level of government must work together towards a better budget, as well as a reimagined and restructured public safety department that is focused on community safety, racial justice, and swift accountability for incidents of police brutality. This must involve every level of government in Los Angeles, including Los Angeles County, which oversees social services and healthcare, and the Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversees our local schools. Councilmember Ryu intends to work together to continue scaling up services in housing, homelessness, workforce development and more.
Since the day the Mayor released his budget in April, Councilmember Ryu has called for the City to prioritize services and programs that support workers, seniors, and our most vulnerable residents, and made clear that cuts to these social services will cost our City far more in the long run than it saves in the short-term.
Getting there will take work and structural change, but it starts with understanding how local government & budgeting works.
Let’s get started:
What the Different Levels of Local Government are Responsible For
Los Angeles is governed by both a City government and a County government, as well as various agencies that manage different public resources in Los Angeles. Essential services is provided by both the City and County of Los Angeles, schools are managed by the Los Angeles Unified School District Board, and public transportation is primarily managed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The City of Los Angeles manages multiple departments and services as direct services to the citizens of Los Angeles such as:
Independent Departments and proposed allocations for the 2020-21 budget:
- Airports (Van Nuys and LAX) - $6.6 billion
- Harbor - $1.5 billion
- Water and Power (LADWP) - $9.8 billion
Budgeted Departments and proposed allocations for the 2020-21 budget:
- Animal Services - $42 million
- Civil and Human Rights Commission - $700,000
Development & Permitting Departments:
- Building and Safety, Cannabis Regulation, City Planning, Economic Development & Finance - $306 million
Cultural & Recreational Departments:
- Cultural Affairs & El Pueblo - $27 million
- Convention and Tourism Development - $55 million
- Library, Recreation and Parks & Zoo - $467 million
- City Council, Mayor, Controller - $114 million
- City Administrative Officer, City Clerk, City Attorney - $255 million
- General Services, Information Technology Agency, Personnel
- Emergency Management - $6 million
- Fire - $1.15 billion
- Housing and Community Investment - $116 million
- Neighborhood Empowerment - $4 million
- Police - $3.14 billion
- Public Accountability - $4 million
- Public Works (Street Services, Sanitation, etc.) - $1.4 billion
- Transportation - $301 million
Find out more about each City department and service bureau here.
The County of Los Angeles and the five elected County Supervisors maintain an overlapping jurisdiction of departments for all Cities in Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles shares or contracts for services from the County. In particular, funding for social services, health, mental health, public health and the court systems are maintained at the County level. The County has a 35 billion dollar proposed budget for 2020-2021.
Some Los Angeles County departments and their proposed allocations for the 2020-21 budget:
- Assessor - $215 million
- Child Support Services - $214 million
- Children and Family Services - $2.9 billion
- Consumer and Business Affairs - $19 million
- District Attorney - $481 million
- Health Services - $8.3 billion
- Medical Examiner-Coroner - $48 million
- Mental Health - $2.7 billion
- Military & Veterans Affairs - $6.7 million
- Probation - $1 billion
- Museums & Cultural Centers - $99 million
- Public Defender & Alternate Public Defender - $262 million
- Public Health - $1.1 billion
- Public Social Services - $4.6 billion
- Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk - $202 million
- Sheriff - $3.4 billion
- Trial Court - $404 million
- Workforce Development, Aging & Community Services - $123 million
LAUSD and the seven elected Board members serve as the public education provider for school children in the City of Los Angeles and 26 other cities or County unincorporated areas. They maintain an approximately 14 billion dollar budget and 66,500 employees. LAUSD provides a host of student support services, including before and afterschool programming, breakfast and lunch menus, bus transportation, early education (Transitional Kindergarten); general educational, magnet school curriculum, and special education. They manage offices of academic support and achievement, an A-G Diploma Program to help re-engage students who are not on track to meeting the A-G requirements for graduation, immigration and education services, health and wellness centers and school based clinics, mental health services, an office tasked with stamping out the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), an office of homeless education, and other specialized support services for targeted student populations, including students in foster care, experiencing homelessness, involved in the Juvenile Justice System.
Other Shared Services & Joint Powers:
LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority: A shared transit authority in LA County LA Metro has a 7.2 billion dollar operating budget and 10,217 employees. Learn more about Metro here.
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority: An independent, joint powers authority between the City and the County of Los Angeles established to respond to the homelessness crisis LAHSA uses approximately $300 million in federal, state, county, and city funds and employs 500 staff. Learn more about LAHSA here.
Film LA: Established as an independent City and County film permitting system Film LA has an estimated operating budget of $122,907,000. Learn more about Film LA here.
South Coast Air Quality Management District: South Coast AQMD is the regulatory agency responsible for improving air quality for large areas of Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, including the Coachella Valley. The region is home to more than 17 million people–about half the population of the entire state of California. Learn more about South Coast AQMD here.
The City Budget Timeline:
In the spring, the Mayor sends the Council a Budget Proposal with a response due date that comes up on June 1st, and then becomes effective July 1st. The City Budget is a living document revised throughout the year to address emerging situations and priorities. Normally, during late April and through mid May, the Budget and Finance Committee holds daily budget hearings to review and recommend revisions for the budget. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings were not held in the usual way this year and the budget deliberation process was delayed. This was because of technical challenges related to virtual meetings and because revenue estimates were highly uncertain due to not knowing when the Safer at Home order would be lifted. The Safer at Home order has reduced many city revenue streams, such as parking lot taxes, hotel taxes, and sales taxes to much lower levels than normal.
On May 20 of this year, the City Council heard preliminary public comments on the Mayor’s Budget. On May 21, the Council discussed general impacts and changes in the draft budget before referring it back to the Budget and Finance Committee.
The Budget and Finance Committee will hold regular meetings every Monday in June, starting Monday June 8, with special meetings likely to be added and will present recommendations to the full Council.
The Council (aka the Legislature) can amend the Budget. The Budget is likely to continue changing through 2020 as the revenue, expenses, and needs arise.
Where City Funding Goes:
You can find detailed information on the City budget using the interactive Open Budget portal. You can find the Mayor’s proposed 2020-21 budget here, and a breakdown of the total 2020-21 proposed General City Budget allocations here.
How You Can Get Involved:
All topics introduced to be discussed at council have a “Council File Number” assigned. This is where everything on the topic is collected. You can search council file numbers on the city clerk’s file management system: https://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/
If you want to follow EVERYTHING on the item, subscribe to get updates on the item. Please note that for a large item like the City’s Budget this may mean you receive a high volume of email.
You can submit Public Comment to be directly and publicly uploaded to the budget file.
You can view all the submitted public comments (Communications from Public) along with all other submitted documents in the upper right corner under the heading “Online Documents”
Types of Online Documents In the File
- “Communication from Department”- City Departments telling Council their priorities.
- Community Impact Statements - Positions taken by the City’s Neighborhood Councils on the budget or other policy priorities.
- “Budget Motions”- Priorities from Individual City Council Offices on adjusting the budget. These are batched and numbered sequentially by order of time submitted.
- Communication from the Mayor
The Budget and Finance Committee
Detailed discussion of the Budget happens in a dedicated Council Committee called the Budget and Finance Committee. After the proposals are finalized in Budget and Finance hearings, then the final revised budget will be sent to full Council for review.
You can subscribe to any meeting schedule of individual Council Committees.
By subscribing to the Budget and Finance Committee notifications you will be emailed when the Budget and Finance Agendas are prepared, which will give you the date and time of a public meeting, and a list of all the topics being discussed at the meeting. This is likely to be the simplest way to keep track of what’s happening on the Budget in City Council.
Note: Legally, all public meetings in CA require that only topics publicly listed in advance of the meeting on a formal agenda may be discussed. If you wish to discuss any other topic than those listed in the agenda, you will be able to give “general public comment”, usually at the start or end of the meeting, but the people on a public committee are not legally allowed to discuss or act on new topics on the day of the hearing. This is also true of Neighborhood Council meetings.
To Review Budget Numbers:
The City Administrative Officer keeps track of the detailed breakdowns of the City’s adopted and proposed budgets. The proposed budget is here, with detailed information by city departments (listed alphabetically) in two volumes: Volume 1 & Volume 2. The Chief Legislative Analyst also prepared a short summary of the issues and impacts in the City Budget for City Council which might be helpful to read.
Additional Citizen Budget Involvement:
Contact your representative. Find out who represents you at https://neighborhoodinfo.lacity.org/
Each of the ninety-nine neighborhood councils have 2 specially designated Neighborhood Budget Advocates. These 198 elected citizen representatives get training in the City budget process and are responsible for tracking and monitoring the budget, and providing suggestions and recommendations. Being involved with your Neighborhood Council is often a good way to share community input collectively, and our office listens closely to the recommendations from our neighborhood councils.