The city of Los Angeles is staring down a $200 million budget deficit in the months ahead. It faces an even larger deficit next year. L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants Angelenos to offer ideas about ways to balance the city's books. He also wants his constituents to know that some program and service cuts are inevitable.
The mayor appeared at the Silver Lake Public Library to draw attention to a survey on the city's Web site. Visitors there can see some ideas the city's considering to put its finances right – services like libraries and parks cut, fees and taxes on facilities like city parking lots raised.
Last week Villaraigosa ordered department heads to cut a thousand jobs. He also said he's looking at another 1,200 to 2,000 cuts for the following year – unless city employee unions agree to pay cuts. "I know that in the past, the history of the city is that our employee unions have never taken a cut. They maybe defer, but not a cut. They've taken zeroes, not a cut. It's time to take a cut. ‘Cause that will minimize layoffs."
So will transferring some workers to jobs at the L.A. Department of Water and Power, the port and L.A. International Airport. Those agencies operate under separate budgets. Their general managers will report to the L.A. City Council next week about how many open jobs they have.
But while Villaraigosa says the city can’t avoid some reductions, he firmly opposes cutting sworn officers from the police department. "In the inquiries we've received and in the opinions we've collected have said that public safety is our priority. It begins with police and fire."
The Web survey meant for public feedback offers an option for cutting the fire department. The survey doesn’t mention the police department, the city council, and the mayor's office. The mayor said his office has already made sacrifices for the budget.