Thursday, April 05, 2007

The City Budget is coming...

Keep your eyes open...

The Mayor will release his 2007-2008 Budget in just a few short days.

If there is something you feel passionate about, you have about 2 weeks from when it's released to truly make your case and implore the City Council to maintain funding as the Mayor proposes or get them to amend his budget.

It's not an impossible feat, but it takes dedication and organization AND an understanding of the budget process for Los Angeles:

First, the Mayor takes 6 months to meet with department heads and get their requests for funding for the following fiscal year. His staff drafts the City's budget based on those requests/meetings and the Mayor's priorities. Then, they send their document to the city print shop and has at least 3 books printed: the main budget and two supplements. Then, these books are delivered to the City Council and all City departments for review. They have about a week to review and analyze the proposed budget before the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee starts their budget hearings. Budget Hearings are special meetings in Council Chambers that review each section of the budget, department by department. Each General Manager comes in with their team and requests more money or defends what has been budgeted. The City Council committee asks questions and requests reports back. These reports are then provided back after about 6 (almost full) days worth of regularly scheduled hearings. The committee moves to amend or accept the budget, and then their recommendations are sent to the full City Council. The full City Council then can make motions to amend or accept. Whatever they vote on (whatever changes are made) must be accepted by the Mayor and have him sign and adopt that budget by June 30th - at the very latest.

That's the basic process in a nutshell. The general public can attend the hearings and speak on any (or all) items of their choosing. The public can also attend the full City Council meeting where the budget is discussed, but most changes have been made by that time. So, the best way to get into the mix is to make sure you know what you're asking for now, and start communicating with all 15 City Councilmembers. Then, once the budget it released make realistic requests to the Budget Committee (and copy all Councilmembers on your correspondences so they can be kept in the loop - you'll never know who might emerge as the champion for your budget item).

Now, Neighborhood Councils have a minor (to be generous) role in the shaping of the budget, but they would be just as effective to get involved at the City Council level versus back when the Mayor asked for their restricted input through his "NC budget process."

Some suggestions: make your requests specific and realistic. Don't ask for "doubling the funding for the Department of General Services"; ask for a specific amount to be included for a specific reason. And, be ready to recommend where those funds would come from - what other program or service from that department could be adjusted to fund what you're looking for? It's not easy to craft a $5 billion, and knowing how to give and take is what makes getting specific interests funded. Remember, also, that only 54% of that total is unrestricted funds - about half of the money is restricted to specific uses, so the City really only can shift around about $2.6 billion.

This brief overview could be pages long - and still be just a brief. There is a lot that goes into creating the City's annual budget, and the best way to effect change on it is to understand it completely.

Check out the Mayor's Budget Website from last year's budget (not updated) and the CAO's budget website for more information.

1 comment:

Allen said...

Greatt read thanks