Crediting an influx of state and federal dollars along with higher-than-expected revenue and departmental cost savings, the county Board of Supervisors approved an amended $46.7 billion budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year on Tuesday, Oct. 3, adding hundreds of new positions.
The board unanimously approved a $3.4 billion supplemental budget plan, augmenting the initial $43.3 billion budget it approved for 2023-24 back in June.
In a presentation to the board, county CEO Fesia Davenport said more than half of the new funding, or about $1.8 billion, represented new funding from the state and federal governments. She noted that the bulk of that money is specifically “attached to particular programs or services,” meaning it mostly cannot be reallocated to other county programs. The rest of the additional funding is the result of “operational savings” in various departments, including staff vacancies, cost savings in areas such as ongoing capital improvement projects and revenue collections that “exceeded what was anticipated,” primarily property tax revenue.
The new funding will be used to add 667 staff positions, bringing the county’s overall workforce to 115,324, Davenport said. Of the new positions, the largest number — 167 — will be allocated to the Department of Mental Health, largely to expand services to the homeless as the county works to clear encampments by moving people into housing and treatment. She noted that more than 30 positions will be spread across various departments to shift people with the highest mental-health needs out of jail and into treatment settings.
The county Department of Children and Family Services will get the second-highest number of new staff positions, at 123, in an effort to reduce caseloads for social workers while also supporting foster children and families. The Department of Parks and Recreation will see 33 new positions, supporting aquatics and recreation programs. As they have in many previous public hearings during the budget cycle, board members got an earful from many activists who continued to push for the immediate closure of the Men’s Central Jail downtown, contending that conditions remain poor and endanger the lives of those housed there.
Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn noted that the budget includes funding for body-worn cameras for jail deputies and replacement of 2,000 cameras that “monitor activities inside the jail.” She noted the commitment of the board to ultimately close the jail, but said in the meantime, the county must be sure “we care deeply for those who are in custody and make sure we are protecting their safety as well as the safety of the deputies who are in our jails.” Hahn and Supervisor Hilda Solis both noted funding in the spending plan to assist immigrants, including those being bused to Los Angeles from Texas.
Hahn also pointed to $22 million in state funding being provided for the scheduled Dec. 1 implementation of the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment, or CARE, Court, a statewide effort to get severely mentally ill into treatment. She also noted the addition of 132 mental health beds included in the new spending plan. Solis hailed other programs, such as the LA vs. Hate program aimed at combating hate crimes, the establishment of an LGBTQ+ Commission, funding to expand awareness and use of gun violence restraining orders, efforts to create “heat action plans” for individual communities and $20 million to provide free phone calls for jail inmates.
In a statement after the board’s unanimous vote, Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she would be keeping a close eye on the planned addition of mental health treatment beds in the coming months.
“As we fund homelessness outreach, housing, and supportive services, we’re seeing clearly that treating mental illness is inextricably connected to successfully achieving lasting results,” Barger said. “Funding mental health services, beds, and personnel are all fundamental building blocks to every focal policy area of our board — from accomplishing reforms in the county’s jails, to helping people experiencing homelessness remain housed, to supporting foster youth who have experienced trauma that limits their full potential.”