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Mayor’s Budget Proposal Cuts Police Support Staff, Restores LAFD Funds

Seeking to close a $238 million deficit, Villaraigosa also proposes using close to $83 million in one-time solutions.

Mayor VillaraigosaVia northridge.patch.com

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled a $7.2 billion budget proposal today that includes 231 layoffs and would reduce employee retirement benefits while raising the retirement age from 60 to 67.

Seeking to close a $238 million deficit, Villaraigosa proposed using close to $83 million in one-time solutions that include payments from the dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency, special parking revenue for basic services and $29 million in Medi-Cal reimbursements anticipated for this year.

The remaining approximately two-thirds of the deficit would be solved through cuts or savings that are ongoing, including a 6 to 12 percent budget cut across across a wide swath of city departments. The mayor and City Council offices would each take an 8 percent budget cut under the plan.

The mayor’s proposal would also require city workers to either pay 6 to 10 percent more toward their health insurance or pay more in co-pays and receive fewer benefits, starting Jan. 1, 2013.

The budget, which will be vetted by the City Council over the next two months, proposed eliminating another 438 unfilled city jobs. The combined layoffs and position eliminations would save the city $26 million, according to the mayor’s office.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents parts of Studio City and North Hollywood and also is chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, released the following statement:

“With the release of the Mayor’s 2012-13 budget, I will convene a series of hearings of the Budget & Finance Committee. During two and a half weeks of daily meetings, we will hear from each city department, the public and others to shape a leaner, stronger Los Angeles.

“Since 2008, this city has been forced to deal with the worst recession in our lifetime, which has resulted in significant deficits every year. At the same time, the city has struggled to address a structural deficit that has caused a reduction in the services on which our residents depend. Our budget must reflect our city’s values, and our commitment to public safety and core services, yet it must also be based on a long term strategic vision based on efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability.

“Our collective success in formulating such a budget will determine the future of Los Angeles and whether we will have a city that does not merely remain solvent, but is set on an enduring path to growth. It cannot be acceptable to any Angeleno to continue a seemingly endless process of delaying hard choices and slowly bleeding city services away.”

Most of the layoffs, 159, would target civilian clerical and support workers in the Los Angeles Police Department. The remaining layoffs would be spread across 10 other city departments that include: Animal Services, Finance, Fire, General Services, Information Technology, Neighborhood Empowerment, Personnel, Street Services, the City Clerk’s Office and the Ethics Commission.

The layoffs would bring the total civilian general fund workforce to 21,715 employees, a 16 percent reduction since 1991, according to the mayor.

The budget would maintain LAPD hiring and includes a proposal to move more than 200 employees in the General Services Department’s Office of Public Safety into the Police Department, saving the city about $2.9 million per year.

The move would bring the ranks of sworn LAPD officers to above 10,000 — close to Villaraigosa’s stated goal in 2005 of adding 1,000 cops to the department.

Villaraigosa proposed restoring some funding to the Los Angeles Fire Department, which had its budget slashed by more than $50 million last year during the rollout of an updated deployment strategy.

The mayor’s budget would restore six ambulances to service during peak hours of the day. It would pay for the department to re-open training centers in order to begin hiring new firefighters starting in September 2013.

Intense media scrutiny of the department’s emergency response times under the new deployment have led some City Council members to call for restoring funding to the department. The fire chief told the council this week that LAFD response times are “very good” for a big city.

The budget would apply property tax money approved by voters in 2011 to expand public library hours on Monday and Wednesday nights as well as Friday mornings at 64 branch libraries.

It also proposes using money from Measure R to increase street re-paving by 10 percent, from 735 to 800 miles per year and filling 350,000 potholes, a 17 percent bump over this year.

City employee unions have criticized Villaraigosa for not doing a better job collecting revenues owed to the city in order to avoid layoffs.

In an effort to combat the criticism, the mayor today also announced the appointment of an inspector general for citywide collections, a position that was approved by the City Council in May 2011. Villaraigosa chose Fernando Campos, a Harbor Department grants administrator, to lead the collection effort.

“This budget is prudent. This budget is responsible. This budget will protect vital services that Angelenos rely on, and this budget will ensure that the city stays on a trajectory of long-term fiscal stability,” Villaraigosa said during his State of the City address Wednesday night. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city’s top budget analyst, told the council this week that Los Angeles would be unable to maintain the size of its public safety departments without raising taxes. He recommended doubling the documentary transfer tax, a property sales tax, and increasing a parking tax by 5 percent. The additional taxes, which would need to be approved by voters, would bring in about $140 million, Santana said.

Villaraigosa did not call for the tax increases as part of his budget package. In his speech Wednesday, he proposed putting another county tax measure to fund transportation projects on the November ballot.

The City Council Budget and Finance Committee will begin holding hearings to vet the mayor’s budget on April 27.

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