Every Fall begins City Council’s work deciding on the next years spending priorities. Its starts as conversations within the Budget and Audit Board, it then transitions over to the full body of Council for approval in late October. As the Chair of the Budget and Audit Board, and as one of your Council members, I’m putting together this blog to share with you, the answer to one of the most common questions I’ve heard from our community.
“Where is the money is actually going?“
The 350 page budget book very much, feels more theoretical than specific. It posts numbers for each department but it’s not easy to see how and where that spending trickles down within the departments.
Before I go into some of those specifics, l’ll throw in the caveat that this is not an exhaustive list, the list below includes some highlights that coincide with the requests and priorities that we’ve heard from you. I’ve broken these spending highlights into four categories, categories that, over the last year, we’ve heard requests from our community the most. (Spending obviously extends into many more categories, but for brevity’s sake, I’m hitting here on what I see to be the big four).
First, homeslessness Response:
- This budget includes a new, interdepartmental Homelessness response that includes the public works, parks, police and planning departments in addressing the needs of our unhoused and improve our response and clean-up efforts.
- It also includes allocating funds to establish a housing navigation center that will be both housing, and wrap around services to help our unhoused residents find pathways to self sufficiency. This navigation center will include both short term temporary shelter space, and longer term supportive housing that will help our unhoused residents get off the streets and back on their feet.
Second, public safety
As our communities needs from the police department have broadened, this years budget responds to that. It starts with expanding what we do within the police department and adding to staff in a way that takes some of the administrative tasks away from our sworn agents so they are more available to address the crime and public safety that they are specifically trained for. Some of the budget items here include:
- Adding several new support roles for our sworn agents to better tailor our responses and increase efficiency.
- Increase the number of our Co-responders in mental health and medical, and increasing victim advocate support.
- Moving into the third year of the LEAD program. This is a program that increases the efficiency of our court system and is host to a number of collaborative partnerships between law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, and treatment providers aimed at getting residents treatment they need when agents are responding to calls arising from substance abuse, mental illness and extreme poverty.
Third, safety on our streets:
In supporting our communities goal of improving connectivity and safety on our streets. Some of the items included in this budget are:
- Pedestrian upgrades at numerous traffic signals that are being replaced
- Increasing sidewalk connectivity with an additional 4.4 miles of sidewalks and/or shared use paths to be completed or begin design, in 2023.
- Projects around the city to improve safety for all users of our roads. Including in some locations like on the Light Rail W Line bike path adding lighting, and installing raised tabletop crossings.
- And while it is not included in the 2023 Budget I thought it worth mentioning that city staff is also working on developing concepts for future design of protected bike lanes on Garrison from Alameda to Colfax
And fourth, sustainability. This budget includes:
- Continuing to convert our streetlights to LED’s for energy and cost efficiency
- Vehicle electrification: 2 vehicles were ordered this year, and 7 have been identified to be replaced with EV’s when they are due in 2023.
- Full time staff dedicated to ensuring the city is not overwatering in our parks
- Continuing to grow the tree canopy project increasing the health of our local environment and reducing energy use.
For anyone looking to get more context on specific projects across the city, there is a list available online called the Capital Improvements and Preservation Plan that does a deeper dive. This document is also included in the Council Questions and response sheet on Lakewoodspeaks.org here.
In closing, I’d like to do a huge shout out of appreciation to our Lakewood residents that have reached out this past year with thoughts, questions and requests, as well as our Budget and Audit Board community members that donated their time to this process, and finally to our Lakewood staff that has been working for months trying to dial all of this in. While no budget is ever going to be perfect, it takes us all working together to make it the best that it can be. And next year…..we’ll try again!
LINK: Lakewoodspeaks.org/October 17 meeting https://lakewoodspeaks.org/meetings/446