Villaraigosa's budget proposal would slash city services

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at a press conference on April 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at a press conference on April 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled a budget proposal today that would layoff more than 700 workers and furlough thousands of city employees — in many cases for up to a month — to cut a projected $485 million deficit in half during the next fiscal year.

Matt Szabo, Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff, conceded that slashing the civilian workforce would result in a significant reduction in services.

"There will be a service impact, there simply will, in the near term,'' he said. But he added that the layoffs and service reductions are expected to save $176 million, while the furloughs would save $63 million.

Villaraigosa plans to add $53 million to the pot by leasing the city's parking garages and repairing broken parking meters; and another $39 million by freezing capital expenditures.

The rest of the deficit would be closed using a $154 million increase in projected revenues from taxes, licenses, permits, fines and a fund transfer from the Department of Water and Power.

"It's not that we're out of the woods,'' City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said, adding he believes the decline in revenue has "bottomed out'' but recovery is going to take time.

Villaraigosa's budget programs $4.34 billion in expenditures — including $7.7 million to continue hiring police officers so the ranks of the Police Department can be maintained at 9,963 police officers.

"This budget provides a beginning path towards that sustainability. It is balanced by using 68 percent of cuts and revenue changes that are structural and just 32 percent that are one-time," Villaraigosa said.

However, a plan to reduce overtime costs by forcing officers to take days off would remain in place, according to the budget proposal. Police Chief Charlie Beck has said the move will continue to delay homicide investigations, and could result in the closure of some police desks at night.

A hiring freeze would remain in place at the Fire Department, which would also be required to continue taking 15 fire trucks and nine ambulances out of commission every day. Fire Chief Millage Peaks has warned that the measures lengthen response times.

Villaraigosa's budget also calls for 735 miles of street resurfacing, but reduces the number of potholes that can be repaired and delays tree trimming.

It would cut staffing at libraries, limiting operations to five days a week instead of six; eliminate daytime services at certain child care centers, though after-school programs would still provided; reduce recreation programs at parks; and close one animal shelter.

Ben Ceja, deputy mayor for budget, said service reductions due to staffing cuts can be mitigated if labor unions make concessions.

"I think everybody here on this table that represents the city would be all inclined to turn off the furlough faucet, so to speak, towards the end of the fiscal year so long as the concessions that were granted... would be to the extent that are structural and long term and ongoing,'' Ceja said.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said he will meet with labor leaders in a few days, but added, "I think that the most important point is that this budget is ready to start and proceed forward on July 1. So with or without labor concessions, we have a balanced budget beginning of the fiscal year.''

A labor contract with the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions, which represents about 22,000 of the city's 35,000 workers, requires the city to give pay raises to its members if layoffs and furloughs proceed.

"The proposal is that employees who will receive a raise on July 1 will be required to take 26 furlough days. Employees who are not receiving the cost-of-living adjustment on July 1 will be asked to take 16 furlough days,'' Szabo said.

"The result of the requirements in the contract is that on the very same day that the least senior, the youngest employees that make the least, on the same day that those folks will be laid off, the most senior employees who make the most will be receiving a raise,'' he added.

Villaraigosa's budget proposal would also slash the salary accounts for the mayor's office and City Council offices by 7.5 percent, and calls for taking $13 million out of council members' discretionary funds.

The City Council will review the mayor's budget proposal next week.

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