It won’t be long before Long Beach residents start seeing more improvements to streets, parks and other infrastructure throughout the city, thanks to funds collected through the voter-sanctioned sales tax increase known as Measure A.
The measure raises the city sales tax by 1 percentage point for six years, after which it is reduced by 0.5 percentage point for four years before it sunsets. Funds generated by the tax increase are dedicated to restoring public safety services and improving public infrastructure.
Originally, $19.5 million was budgeted for street improvements in fiscal year 2017, but the city council voted to reallocate $2 million of those monies to restore Paramedic Rescue 12 in North Long Beach and to reinstate the police academy earlier this year.
“We’re supposed to get the $2 million back for streets in year four [of Measure A tax collection],” Craig Beck, director of public works, explained. “We think that public safety decision was good, and as long as we get the money in year four, we’ll be able to address all the streets that we had shared with the public in our presentation before it was all voted on.”
Beck shared an update on Measure A projects slated for fiscal year 2017 with the Business Journal after giving a PowerPoint presentation on the topic to the city’s oversight committee for Measure A funding and projects on April 5.
Streets slated for improvements this year are those eligible for slurry sealing, a process in which streets are patched and then covered with a material that prevents them from cracking. This is a less intensive and less expensive process than repaving. “We’re doing that preventative maintenance on all streets eligible for that work,” Beck said.
Currently, the city is finishing up concrete work on these streets, such as adding curb cuts for ADA accessibility. Then the slurry sealing will begin, according to Beck. While previous estimates indicated this work would be done by September, Beck said it might be sooner. “I believe it’s going to be done sometime in July. All of it,” he said.
Broadway west of Redondo Avenue is the main arterial street slated for improvements this year, according to Beck. This work should be completed by the end of the year, he said.
The fiscal year 2017 Measure A work plan also includes $5 million to create an alley management plan, which will identify alleys that are in most need of and are eligible for repairs.
The city is investing $1.2 million of Measure A funds in improvements at City Place parking garages this year, according to Beck. “We’re experiencing a lot of parking needs in the downtown area, and we are looking at our City Place garages as a way to help address some of that need,” he said. Elevators in the garages are going to be updated, ADA improvements made, and security cameras and LED lighting installed, he said. “And we are looking at adding solar to the roof of the garages to help make them more sustainable,” he added.
Other infrastructure improvement projects planned this year include repairing the bridge connecting Naples Island and Belmont Shore as well as damaged fire station roofs.
Public facility improvements slated for this year include roof repairs and minor interior work for the Expo Building in Bixby Knolls, library branch improvements, a modern cat-housing system for Animal Care Services and more.
Parks facilities are receiving $6,098,000 in Measure A funds this year. Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos are receiving $1 million of this funding for seismic upgrades, irrigation and turf replacement, termite treatments and other needs.
“There are a lot of playgrounds underway. Pretty much all of the play equipment design has been completed, and right now we’re working on kind of the surrounding elements,” Beck said. These efforts are earmarked at $2,850,000.
According to the city’s Measure A website, public safety service restoration and maintenance budgeted for this fiscal year include:
• $2,296,881 for the restoration of Fire Engine 8
• $2,372,829 for the restoration of Police South Division
• $628,300 for the restoration of Fire Paramedic Rescue 12
• $821,802 for the restoration of police academy staffing
• $2,254,496 to maintain police services
• $909,853 to maintain fire services
“While the State Board of Equalization (BOE) has been collecting the Measure A sales tax since January 1, there is normal processing delay in the receipt of the actual cash to the city,” Lea Eriksen, assistant finance director for the City of Long Beach, told the Business Journal via e-mail. “We won’t have an accurate report of the first quarter revenue estimate (January to March) until June. This was planned for in the estimated prorated amount of Measure A sales tax for the first year of $35,640,000.”
Eriksen continued, “The FY17 adjusted budget for Measure A infrastructure projects is $25,739,000. The department of public works is reporting that they are projected to be on track to spend all of those funds by the end of the year. However, it is still early in the year, and so things could change.”
The remainder of Measure A revenue is budgeted for public safety enhancements and for the city’s rainy day fund, she noted.
According to Beck, the city recently hired a communications representative to assist with community engagement related to Measure A. Public works staff members are in the process of uploading all Measure A project templates to the city’s Measure A web page at www.longbeach.gov/citymanager/measure-a/, he noted. “Additional information will be added in coming weeks. Also, the webpage will be moved to the city’s homepage.”