Latest LA budget calls for 761 layoffs, deep service cuts

The Los Angeles City Council yesterday approved a budget that includes 761 layoffs and deep service cuts to help close a nearly $500 million deficit. [Audio: KPCC’s Frank Stoltze joins Susanne Whatley from the downtown bureau to talk about the highlights of the approved L.A. city budget.]

Updated 10:57 a.m.

Many of the cuts were expected, such as two days per month mandatory days off for most city employees. The City Council agreed to slash library hours, with branches now open only five days a week.

There will be no more city-provided child care, and trees will be trimmed less. The twist yesterday was a memo from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, reversing himself and asking the Council to delay the vote on the budget he proposed by one week.

City Councilman Greig Smith said the mayor was counting on revenue from things like privatizing parking structures and concessions from city labor unions that have not yet been realized.

"You can't make assumptions for money that is not real," said Smith. "Are you willing to shoot craps and throw the dice, or do you want to take what you know is in your hand and budget realistically for what we got?"

The Council went with Smith's view of risk aversion yesterday, with the council voting in favor of 761 layoffs.

There are varying views on the Council, but most don't think the chances of avoiding layoffs is great. The mayor's spokesman Matt Szabo said that Villaraigosa thinks a deal can be reached with unions, with concessions being made to avoid the layoffs.

Bob Schoonover of the Service Employes International Union (SEIU) said union leaders met with the mayor privately Friday, and also with the city administrative officer for eight hours on Monday. Schoonover expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.

City Council President Garcetti on the passage of the new budget

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Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti led the process to craft the city’s latest budget.

"We have to make tough choices in this very difficult budget year, but it's in the best interests of our city to make sure that we have a balanced budget," said Garcetti. "Unlike the state of California and us in years past, we can't simply spend more than we have."

Garcetti noted that there's a path to get down to zero layoffs, but it would require concessions by unions.

"Those of us who work for the city have good jobs, are able to have good benefits, and to be able to sacrifice some of those things in a tough year for the people of L.A., I believe they'll do it, and I think that it's the right thing to do." Garcetti said that this budget protects core services like policing and allows for fast turnaround on fixing potholes.

The Council passed some alternative revenue streams, attempting to maximize the debt the city is owed, collect money from parking meters more efficiently, and collecting money for dog licenses.

Garcetti said that new revenue sources have allowed a dog shelter to stay open, keeping 2,500 animals from being euthanized. They've also allowed $2 million to be allocated to some of the parks in the city's toughest neighborhoods, according to Garcetti.

Garcetti said that they were able to take 2,400 people off the payroll through an early retirement program. Unions agreed to not take some bonuses this year, as well as increasing pension payments.

If layoffs happen, Garcetti said, it makes it harder to bring back services in future years.

Union coalition spokeswoman Cheryl Parisi on how budget affects city workers

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The city has approved a $6.7 billion spending play for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. The layoffs are only a small part of the city's 50,000-plus person workforce, but more layoffs are possible in the fall if the economy doesn't get better.

Parisi expressed optimism about negotiations with the city, but said "We are deeply disappointed that the Council elected to move forward with layoffs that are going to so deeply affect our communities – closing child care centers, closing libraries, recreation centers, and really leading to the deterioration of neighborhoods." However, Parisi said they remain convinced that there are solutions.

Councilman Herb Wesson had a plan to balance the budget without layoffs or furloughs, but that didn't pass. There was a dispute about when to record new revenues expected to come in from parking lot leasing, and the majority of the council voted to not count those funds until October and to move forward with a plan close to the mayor's proposed budget.

Parisi said that they met with the city administrative officer to discuss cost savings ideas to help prevent layoffs. "That's really what we're looking at – creative ways to trim expenditures and generate sufficient savings to be able to save these services."

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