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Bradley's $3.8-Billion Budget Features Painful Cuts : Finances: The plan would reduce library hours, recreational activities, an after-school program and funding for the arts.

April 17, 1993|JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reduced library hours, abbreviated recreational activities, cuts in an after-school program for 8,400 children and a drastic slicing of funding for the arts are all part of a $3.8-billion budget presented Friday by Mayor Tom Bradley.

Saying he was saddened to propose such drastic measures in the twilight of his 20-year reign at City Hall, Bradley called the actions "unavoidable" in closing a $190-million revenue shortfall without raising taxes or cutting essential police and fire services.

Bradley also called for the layoff of 128 employees and massive borrowing from three sources that have been resilient during the economic downturn--a parking meter trust fund, the Port of Los Angeles and the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The measures come as the city struggles to cope with a falloff in taxes from the worst recession in half a century.

"I am sorry that the last budget I must submit to the council contains such dire economic news," said Bradley, who leaves office June 30. "Because of the severity of the problem, I saw no reasonable alternative."

Hearings on the proposal begin later this month, with the City Council required to ratify or amend the budget by June 1. Early indications were that the lawmakers would accept most of Bradley's proposals.

But Bradley and the City Council are anxiously waiting for the other budget shoe to drop--in the form of up to $300 million that state officials are expected to take to solve their own fiscal crisis. That decision is not expected until this summer--leaving a second round of budget Angst in the hands of Bradley's successor.

The lame-duck mayor reacted angrily at the mention of state reductions.

"I believe the state ought not to take out of our hides any additional money--$300 million or anything less," he said. "We are asking the state now: Leave us alone! "

Fighting cuts in Sacramento will be one of the major preoccupations of his remaining 2 1/2 months in office, Bradley told reporters at a morning news conference.

In his 20th and final budget message, Bradley looked back fondly on better economic times and the success of the 1984 Olympic Games before turning to the bleak financial picture of the day. A combination of falling tax revenues and increases in workers' compensation, debt service and other costs created the $190-million problem, Bradley said.

His solution is built around the continuation of a hiring freeze that began in 1990. By the end of the fiscal year, on June 30, 1994, four years of attrition will have reduced the city's work force by 2,434 employees from its high of 34,217.

About 428 workers would leave voluntarily and not be replaced in the year beginning July 1, the budget predicts. Only the Police, Fire and Sanitation departments will be allowed to fill vacancies.

The result would be serious diminution in all other city services, Bradley said. The 1993-94 budget presents these odd, depressing visions--a city too poor to clean the windows of its buildings, one that has shifted vehicle maintenance from "prevention to a breakdown mode" and where some streets can be paved, but lane lines cannot be painted in for several weeks.

With less staff, a variety of city services would be cut back:

* The Central Library and 63 regional and branch libraries would reduce hours and remain open five days a week, instead of six. The expanded Central Library and the new Platt Branch will be staffed with current personnel.

* More than 100 recreation centers would pare hours from about 38 hours a week to 35 hours. With 11 parks opening, staffing would have to be provided even as the department loses 53 employees.

* Just 100 miles of streets would be paved, instead of the standard 140 miles.

* Grants would be cut by more than half for artists and arts organizations, festivals and a citywide mural program.

Adolfo Nodal, head of the city's Cultural Affairs Department, said the overall 30% funding reduction might lead to a cancellation of cultural festivals and deep cuts in other programs.

"There is a sense that the arts are not as important as everything else, which I refute," Nodal said. But he said the department had feared even worse reductions and will try to make up the lost funds from other sources, including President Clinton's economic stimulus package.

Another proposed reduction that is likely to meet stiff opposition is the $3.5-million subsidy that keeps 8,400 children in a recreation program from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. every weekday afternoon. Without the money, the children would have to be let out early.

"That would be a severe blow," said Patrick Spencer, a spokesman for the sponsoring Los Angeles Unified School District. "That program keeps kids active and off the streets."

City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, head of the council's Budget and Finance Committee, said he will fight the reduction.

Noting that money remained in the budget to build a public access studio for the city's cable TV station, Yaroslavsky said he would fight to restore after-school funds.

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