LA City Council committee to look at Mayor Villaraigosa's new budget

The Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance Committee will get its first look today at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The committee will hear an overview of the budget from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, then take a close look at the spending plan for the police and fire departments.

Villaraigosa plans to set aside $7.7 million to continue hiring police officers so the ranks can be maintained at the current level of 9,963 officers.

Because of restrictions placed on overtime pay, however, officers would continue to get time off instead of 150 percent of their hourly pay. Because of the overtime restriction, police Chief Charlie Beck has publicly worried that homicide cases will take longer to solve. Some front desks at police stations also may go unstaffed at night.

Villaraigosa plans to keep in place a fire department hiring freeze. The fire department is expected to continue taking 15 fire trucks and nine ambulances out of service to help reduce costs. Fire Chief Millage Peaks warned that emergency response times could increase.

Cost-cutting proposals include shifting some fire department hazardous materials teams to regular field duty.

In all, Villaraigosa's proposed budget listed $6.7 billion in expenses, of which $2.4 billion would be paid with so-called "special funds" like federal grants.

The remaining $4.34 billion would come out of the city's general fund, which is used for basic services like public safety, public works, parks and libraries.

Villaraigosa's budget proposal calls for reducing the projected $485 million deficit for fiscal 2010-11 by laying off up to 750 city employees and furloughing thousands of others.

The mayor is recommending that:

– library hours are reduced to five days a week instead of six;

– the elimination of some child care services;

– fewer city-funded programs at parks;

– and closing one of the city's six animal shelters.