Politics

Los Angeles crossing guard shortage just one symptom of a bigger city hiring problem

File: Crossing guard Tony Abdalla ensures children's safety outside of Arroyo Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena.
File: Crossing guard Tony Abdalla ensures children's safety outside of Arroyo Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Several Los Angeles city departments report they are on track to end the fiscal year with millions of dollars in surpluses because they are unable to fill hundreds of employee vacancies fast enough to keep up with retirements and attrition of the city's aging workforce.

As of the end of August, L.A. had nearly 4,000 job vacancies, according to a report by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana to the City Council.

The Recreation and Parks Department is looking for 100 new full-time workers by December. The Bureau of Street Services has 165 openings; Public Works has 89. The LAPD has 103 vacancies and expects 325 more by June, yet fewer than 100 are in the training pipeline in new classes.

L.A. is on track to spend about $62 million more than it takes in this fiscal year, according to a new city financial progress report, so many departments will have to reallocate expenses to end the year in balance. Some may come from the savings of departments that are unable to fill positions.

Take city crossing guards. The Council added money for 65 new part-time guards to be hired by the Department of Transportation to reach its goal of 475.

"I don't see us reaching that goal this year because of the ongoing attrition, as well as the current pool of candidates," Department of Transportation Deputy Chief Brian Hale told a City Council budget committee on Monday.

So many guards are quitting due to retirement or finding better-paid jobs that the city now needs 20 more. The number of crossing guards is actually falling just when the city has money to employ them.

Personnel has too few people to call and test job-seekers. Hill said many applicants are screened out in background and fitness tests. He's recruiting seniors and college students for the three-hour-a-day, split-shift jobs.