L.A. City and County Release Proposed Budgets for Fiscal 2008-2009

It's budget time in Los Angeles. Bean counters for the City and the County made their proposals for the coming fiscal year Monday. We have two reports: KPCC's Brian Watt begins with a focus on the county, followed by Frank Stolze with a look at the city.

Brian Watt: The economy's weak, and property tax revenues are slowing down. So L.A. County CEO Bill Fujioka has proposed a budget that's slightly lower than the 22 and a half billion dollars the County is operating on this year. He said his draft reflects the challenges of the times.

Bill Fujioka: There's nothing magical about it. It's living within your means, it's being responsible. It's filling positions to meet your core responsibilities and priorities.

Watt: It's also not filling positions, or eliminating some that have been vacant for a while. Under the proposed budget, the County's workforce would lose 35 positions. Fujioka says the cuts would not affect the way the County delivers services. But he also warned that his budget does not factor in proposed federal and state cuts that could total upwards of $500 million.

Fujioka: I worry about the state. I worry about the federal government. I do worry about DHS if we do not get help from the federal government, and to some extent the state.

Watt: By DHS, he means the County's Department of Health Services. It faces a deficit of almost $200 million in the coming year. Fujioka's office proposes trimming the department's budget. He plans to present more details about that in June. The budget also recommends adding $10 million to improve medical services at county jails, and almost $8 million for anti-gang enforcement. Brian Watt, 89.3 KPCC.

Frank Stoltze: I'm Frank Stoltze. In presenting his budget, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sought first to reiterate the city's dire economic outlook.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: The housing crisis is hitting Los Angeles hard. And the nation is in the midst of a recession. Business taxes, sales taxes, and documentary transfer taxes are all down.

Stoltze: Despite declining revenue, the mayor proposes boosting the police department's budget by 8% to almost $2 billion, mainly to hire 280 more officers. To accomplish that, and a 4% bump in the Fire Department's budget, the mayor wants to increase an array of fees. Garbage pick-up would jump $9 to $35 a month per single family household; construction and development fees would increase by 20%; and parking fines would rise $5 per violation.

Villaraigosa: To continue the buildup of the LAPD in a time of economic crisis, we're asking more of our residents. But for every dollar in new revenues, my budget proposes $1.50 in budget cuts.

Stoltze: The mayor proposes eliminating 767 city jobs. That would mean firing about half that many workers. Karen Sisson is the mayor's Chief Administrative Officer. She said the city plans to spread other cuts across several departments.

Karen Sisson: Probably the one that will be most visible is that maintenance resources for recreation and parks will go down. So your parks will not be maintained at the same level. You will see some diminishing hours in animal services at the shelters.

Stoltze: The $7 billion budget does not include a proposal to raise the L.A. Public Libraries' book transfer fees. The mayor said that issue's in the hands of the library commission. The mayor's proposal now goes to the City Council. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel sits on the budget committee. Greuel, who's running for city controller next year, reserved judgment on the politically sensitive topic of raising sanitation fees.

Greuel: I'm going to listen to the proposal that's being put forward and to identify where that money would go. Are there other options available to us.

Stoltze: The mayor presented his budget at a street services yard in North Hollywood to highlight his proposal to repair 735 miles of street surfaces, 60 more miles than last year. Street Services Director Bill Robertson called that a historic move.

Bill Robertson: This year is just huge. First time in our history that our streets are no longer going to be in a state of deterioration.

Stoltze: The money to pay for the extra street repairs comes from Proposition 42, the statewide measure that set aside a portion of gas tax revenues for transportation improvements.