Villaraigosa: L.A. May Be Poor, But We Can Afford More Cops


New revelations of surprise money shortfalls hit L.A., but among the plans for outsourcing and cutting, Mayor Villaraigosa remains committed to hiring more police.

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The surprise bad news, from the L.A. Times:

the city's top budget analyst revealed that midyear tax revenue is $186 million lower than expected. Tax revenue has declined by double digits for four straight quarters, the worst drop since the Great Depression, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said.

To deal with the downturn, Villaraigosa and council members have agreed to slash payroll costs by allowing 2,400 civilian employees to retire up to five years early. But the city's budget picture is so dire that Santana predicted 1,000 jobs would need to be eliminated, in addition to the 1,000 mentioned in Villaraigosa's letter [on his budget priorities and plans, also signed by various city council members], over the next two years to keep the city afloat

"Our revenues are not going to catch up to the costs of our pension system and our salaries and benefits. [They're] just not," he said.

But the cuts won't come from the police, the Times says:

Villaraigosa wants to keep recruiting enough officers to replace those who resign or retire -- leaving the Police Department with 9,963 sworn officers -- as he and the City Council press ahead with major reductions elsewhere.

The Daily News has details on possible plans to shift costs out of the city's general budget:

"We will consider the elimination, consolidation or outsourcing of city assets and services, furloughs and layoffs where permissible," the letter said.....Cuts in service and outsourcing being considered could be for services like cleaning restrooms at parks....

"We are focusing our attention on what services must be performed by a city worker," [Deputy Mayor Matt] Szabo said. "No one is going to argue that police and fire services should be contracted out. That is a core city service. Other services the public demands, we might be able to provide cheaper."

Options looked at for the long term include either the sale or private operation of assets such as parking facilities, golf courses, the Los Angeles Zoo, Animal Services and the Van Nuys and Ontario airports.

The Coalition of L.A. Unions is opposed to any such move to outsource city jobs to non-city employees.

Looming over all attempts to solve L.A.'s money problems in the long term are employee pensions. Also from the L.A. Times, any short-term moves to solve that problem are dead in the water right now:

A plan to ask Los Angeles voters to roll back retirement benefits for newly hired city workers at Los Angeles City Hall is dead - at least for now, two high-level city officials said today.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff said this morning that pension benefits are spiraling out of control. But he also warned that any effort to put a measure on the June 8 ballot would be risky and have no guarantee of passage.

And the problem is getting real big, real fast:

Budget analysts expect taxpayers' share of the city pension costs to jump from $653 million this year to nearly $1.3 billion by 2013 for every agency but the Department of Water and Power, which has a separate retirement system.

Past City of Angles blogging on L.A.'s money troubles here and here.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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