What is the Budget & Finance Committee doing?
The first robin of Spring in Los Angeles is not a bird. It is the Mayor’s Budget Proposal which appears every April 20th. Then the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee (B&F, for short) starts its marathon dissection of all that money … except, this year, everyone says there is not enough money. The Controller was afraid that she might not even have enough money to pay this year’s bills.
Let’s talk billions. We will start owing almost one-half a billion dollars. We will start with depleted Reserve Fund which will leave us vulnerable to any fire, flood, earthquake, riot or other emergency. We will start with 32,800 employees, 5,000 less that our largest crew, and we expect to lay off anywhere from 700 to 4,000 more. We will ask some of them to work fewer hours, to take unpaid furloughs, and to receive smaller pay checks. Decreased staff means decrease services too our City.
In the past, the General Fund paid most of the City’s bills, paid our employees and operating expenses. This year, we hope to collect $ 4.3 billion into our General Fund and $ 2.4 billion in Special Funds for a total of $ 6.7 billion. Because our General Fund is shrinking, the Mayor and Council seem fixed on shifting everyone paid by the General Fund to programs paid by the Special Funds. The problem is that Special Funds are just that; special grants, donations and loans from State, Federal and private sources which support specific (special) activities and for a specific (limited) period of time. Where will the employees whose salaries come from Special Funds go when those Funds end? The State, Federal and private money has decreased, too. Will new money follow the old programs? Will that decrease our staff and, therefore, our City services even more?
April 27th, the first day of the B&F meetings, the members questioned $ 80M of the income as unreliable and, even, as “fantasy.” They said that the predicted General Fund income may be seriously over estimated and asked for more detail.
April 28th, receiving unflagging support from the Mayor and enough B&F Members, the LAPD ($ 1.97 billion), LAFD ($ 773 million) and Controller’s ($ 28 million) budgets were not changed, much. The City Attorney took a heavy hit, though.
April 29th, B&F looked at Building & Safety ($ 103 million) and heard the howls of Animal Services ($ 33 million) supporters who were afraid we would have to put more and more animals to sleep. We heard the Finance Department ($ 40 million) explain how they have increased collections of citizen unpaid obligations from $ 32 million to $ 65 million (a year) in just 9 years but it is hard to know what to believe when we hear that they will do better next year, with a smaller staff. LACERS and the Fire & Police Pension Plan were proud that they would process 2,400 ERIP employees and more laid off (fired) employees but they couldn’t itemize their costs, yet. The Department of Public Works (DPW) said that there was $ 525 million in the Community Beautification Grant program and they hoped that the 90 NCs would use $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 of their $ 45,000 in this program. Maybe 5 NCs have Beautification Grants, so far.
Has Public Works asked your NC to submit a grant? Public Works has two accountants watching this money. How many accountants will the NCs need? The DPW’s Bureau of Street Services ($ 144 million) won’t be fixing as many potholes, streets or sidewalks next year. New policies (City Ordinances) are necessary to return the responsibility of our sidewalks to the property owners. The DPW’s Bureau of Sanitation Solid Waste Fee was increased in September 2008 to pay for the full cost of picking up trash from all single-family homes. It uses that $ 313 million to pay for “…principal and interest, leases, acquisitions and equipment costs.” …and you thought it went to buy us another 1,000 police officers? The Department of Transportation ($103 million) is thinking of combining its street striping with Street Services street repairs and other “mergers.” Planning hopes to finish 7 Community Plans, as promised, but admitted that they are way behind in their planning. It appears that Rec. & Parks and the Libraries will be poorer, next year.
The bottom line which drew dozens of NC Stakeholders to E&N on April 27th and to B&F on April 29th, DONE, although on the written agenda, was not discussed on either day. Instead, it will be discussed, tomorrow, April 30th, as a sub-set of the Community Development Department. The difference between the DONE funds and the NC funds was not described. The difference between the DONE functions and the NC functions was not mentioned. There may be a 91st NC, next week, if BONC approves Northridge South NC on May 4rth. Can the City afford to pay another $ 45,000 a year?
Keep watching … it’s just beginning to take shape.