Budget Update 2
Budget season has always been a very intense time of major decision-making in Los Angeles City Hall, but it's been especially grueling and daunting during the past two years. Because the City has been facing such extraordinarily difficult budgetary challenges, attempts at solutions are requiring a massive amount of attention, research, discussion and negotiation, forcing the current budget season to last seemingly all year long. Still this is the official time of year when the City adopts its budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 beginning July 1, and Councilmember Koretz, as one of five members of the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, has been hearing testimony all week from the City’s general managers.
Two weeks ago, the Mayor released his proposed budget for 2011-2012. While we are facing another big deficit, we may have already hit the bottom with a leveling out and an upturn in the works, and this budget therefore presents a more positive picture for city services (including increased Library services). The budget proposes only a handful of layoffs, and we hope to avoid even that number.
In addition, most of our civilian employees represented by the Coalition of City Unions (a group of Unions representing most of our civilian employees from sanitation workers to librarians to attorneys) agreed to help pay for the costs of providing health coverage to our retirees. This really is major pension reform. And, in return, there will be no further furloughs for these employees -- which is good news for services. Negotiations are ongoing with the remainder of our Unions that represent a small number of our non-sworn employees as well as our police and firefighters. We hope to see similar pension reform from those bargaining units.
Still, no one on the Council is pleased with all aspects of the proposed budget. The biggest concern is proposed cuts to the Fire Department. Councilmember Koretz has spoken out against the current Modified Coverage Plan (“MCP”) (which is code for reduced coverage). The Fire Chief has developed a new deployment plan to replace MCP which the Chief argues is a better way to operate with a reduced budget. The new deployment plan shifts resources away from various fire stations including stations serving Council District Five, and these reductions in service are very troubling. In addition to the cuts to the Fire Department, the Mayor’s proposed budget makes still further cuts to the Recreation and Parks Department, and insufficiently funds quality of life services such as tree trimming in our Public Works Department. Finally, the Mayor proposes some limited borrowing. While the amount is small and interest rates are very low, Councilmember Koretz believes that the City historically has been and should remain skeptical of such deficit funding.
The Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will continue hearings for the next few weeks.