LA County, mindful of Trump's cuts, emphasizes homeless programs

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The Los Angeles County chief executive will present a $30.8 billion 2018-19 budget to the board of supervisors that emphasizes programs to tackle homelessness.

"Of all the issues facing the county, none is more urgent or complex," Los Angeles County Executive Sachi Hamai said during a Monday press conference.

Nearly 60% of the county's 2018-19 budget, if adopted, will go for health and public assistance programs, Hamai said.

The county will also keep a watchful eye on President Trump’s $4.4 trillion budget released in February, which includes $1.6 trillion in social budget cuts that could reduce funding for county programs. The county is also mindful, Hamai said, that the revenue projections in Gov. Jerry Brown’s $190 billion spending plan did not take December's federal tax overhaul into account.

The Los Angeles County proposal represents an $800 million decrease from last year’s budget, which Hamai attributed to one-time costs that were not renewed.

This budget “embraces the county’s longstanding commitment to conservative fiscal practices, which have consistently led to strong credit ratings and taxpayer savings,” Hamai said.

Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the county’s issuer rating from Aa2 to Aa1 in June 2017 citing a strong tax base and management’s willingness to confront challenges like rising pension and other-post employment benefits and decreases in federal funding. The county has an AA-plus rating from S&P Global Ratings and AA from Fitch Ratings. All give stable outlooks.

The county expects to be in the market with several financings during 2018, according to a presentation Joseph Kelly, the county’s treasurer and tax collector made last month during the Los Angeles 4th Regional Investor conference.

The financings include roughly $700 million of 2018-19 tax and revenue anticipation notes, $300 million in lease revenue bonds in August for the Vermont Corridor Project, $125 million in October for the county’s contribution to a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority project and $1.5 billion for a jail replacement project.

During the last six months of 2017, Hamai said, more than 7,000 homeless people entered crisis, bridge or temporary housing and 3,000 were placed in permanent housing.

“This recommended budget demonstrates the county’s determination to elevate the quality of life for all residents, no matter what their circumstances or paths,” Hamai said.

County voters approved Measure H in March 2017, a quarter cent sales tax that is expected to bring in $355 million annually to support programs to combat homelessness.

If approved, the budget for 2018-19 would allocate $374 million in Measure H funds for homeless services and prevention. In addition to Measure H funding, the county would spend another $45 million for affordable housing and $34 million for permanent supportive housing for people who have been incarcerated that are likely to end up homeless.

The budget also includes $52 million for the county's child welfare agency to find permanent homes for foster youth.

The county would spend $974 million on capital projects including money for two mental health facilities, the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance and the San Fernando Valley Community Health Center in Van Nuys. Spending on road repairs would increase by $67 million under the proposed spending plan.

The budget was scheduled to be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Public hearings will be held in May and budget deliberations in June.

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Budgets Affordable housing County of Los Angeles, CA California