I'm still trying to figure that one out. The total budget weighs in at $7.22 billion, with a deficit of $238 million that Mayor Villaraigosa has managed to close - on paper anyway. We'll break it down later on, but for now here are some of the key points:
--Elimination of 669 city jobs, 231 through layoffs (civilian clerks and secretary positions are getting whacked).
--Maintaining staffing levels at LAPD and the restoration of some services at the Fire Department.
--Raising the retirement age for new city workers to 67. Current employees can retire as early as age 55, but it's next to impossible to make changes impacting those folks.
--Capping maximum retirement allowance to 75 percent of final compensation, but only for future hires.
--Setting aside $2.5 million in start-up funding for an economic development unit that is supposed to "create private sector jobs, generate revenue, and encourage economic opportunity," according to a press release.
"This budget reflects our unwavering commitment to making Los Angeles a city with safe neighborhoods and strong communities and a city that protects core municipal services," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "In order to preserve these services and priorities, this budget makes long-term structural changes to move Los Angeles towards a fiscally sound and sustainable future."
This being a budget proposal that has to be politically palatable, there's a lot of good stuff included, such as funding for:
• The city's Gang Reduction and Youth Development program
• Domestic Abuse Response Teams
• Expansion of public library hours on Monday and Wednesday nights, as well as Friday mornings, at all 63 branch libraries
• New park and recreational facilities
• The Homeless Shelter Bed Program and the Senior Meals Program
• The expansion of the pavement preservation program by nearly 10 percent, from 735 miles to 800 miles, using local return fund from Measure R
• 50,000 new pothole repairs, a 17 percent increase from the prior year (from 300,000 to 350,000).
One factoid stood out in the mayor's budget message: "Since 2008, the general fund workforce has been cut by one-third, from nearly 14,000 positions to roughly 9,000 positions." One third? How did it get to be that large? From the LAT:
"We're always in crisis mode," [budget cirector Miguel] Santana said in an interview. "We're always trying to close that shortfall." Without cutting costs and coming up with about $150 million in new revenue, "we're facing the complete devastation of city services, including public safety," he said.
To be clear, the city has been cutting costs. Among the efforts:
--Implemented a managed hiring process that strictly limits new hiring and promotions to critical vacant positions
--Nearly doubled active civilian employee contributions toward retirement benefits, from 6 percent of pay to 11 percent of pay
--Increased active sworn employee contributions toward retirement benefits from 9% of pay to 11 percent of pay
--Increased civilian employee contributions towards healthcare costs
--Obtained voter approval for new retirement tier for sworn hires
--Froze travel, equipment and furniture purchases
--Reduced City fleet, fuel consumption and cellular plan expenses
--Reduced water and electricity usage through conservation efforts
--Reevaluated all service contracts and worked with vendors to reduce costs
--Eliminated non-core programs and services Citywide
--Eliminated the Environmental Affairs Department and transferred its mandated functions to other departments
--Consolidated the Treasurer's Office with the Office of Finance
--Refinanced debt to take advantage of lower interest rates
Anyway, just a reminder that this budget is only a starting point. The council will weigh in, of course, and the numbers themselves are certain to change, depending on what happens with the economy. Here's the link to all the budget documents. The Council's Budget and Finance Committee will begin hearings next week.
*Update: The mayoral candidates are beginning to react to the budget. From the LAT:
City Council President Eric Garcetti said he would oppose the push for more layoffs, saying civilian city employees have repeatedly made sacrifices to solve the multi-year budget crisis. "Creating a climate of fear among our employees is a dangerous path," he said.
Here's City Controller Wendy Greuel, another candidate:
I do have some concerns about some very important budgetary solutions that are missing from the Proposed Budget that I have expressed previously. Since being elected Controller, I have found dozens of instances of waste, inefficiency, abuse and fraud. We have identified more than $130 million in wasteful spending. Why hasn't the City improved debt collection or cut down on duplication of services? Why do millions of dollars of gasoline, purchased by City taxpayers, remain totally unaccounted for? Instead of answers, we are faced with a budget that lays off hundreds of employees and, consequently, cuts services for our residents.