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New 'Alimony' Figure Is Inflated, Secessionists Say

Government: City official estimates Valley might owe L.A. $304 million a year to maintain services.

January 05, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raising a new obstacle to the secession of the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles officials said Friday that a new Valley city might have to pay $304 million annually in so-called alimony, not the $60 million estimated earlier.

The latest estimate by City Administrator William Fujioka was denounced by Valley VOTE President Jeff Brain as "highly inflated" and characterized as another attempt to complicate the cityhood process.

Some city officials said the new figure could have a big effect on Valley cityhood, given that the new city is expected to have a budget of $800 million to $1 billion.

"If the number is that high, it is just another element that makes secession all that much harder and raises questions about what the Valley would actually get by seceding," said Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission, the agency studying secession.

LAFCO estimated last year that Los Angeles gets about $60 million more from the Valley than it provides there in services. The Valley might have to pay that amount if it seceded.

On Friday, Fujioka issued a new report indicating that the Valley pays only $20 million more for direct services than it gets back.

However, the report said there is an additional $284 million in centralized services that would still have to be paid for by Los Angeles, even if the Valley forms its own city.

Los Angeles still would have to pay to maintain a 911 system, a crime lab, a police radio system and to keep employees who catalog books at city libraries.

Those "stranded" costs could be absorbed during a transition in which Valley leaders have proposed to continue to contract for all services from Los Angeles. But once the contracts end and the Valley takes over the services, Los Angeles could be left with $284 million in centralized costs to pay.

Walter Kieser, a financial consultant for Valley VOTE, said the city estimate is "unbelievable."

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