The Los Angeles City Council on Monday tentatively approved a $4.8-billion budget that maintains existing levels of public service.
The council signed off on most of Mayor James K. Hahn's 2002-03 spending plan. But it increased the reserve fund from $64 million to $102 million and rejected his proposal to eliminate nearly three dozen police positions in special departments, such as the ombudsman's office.
"It preserves last year's funding levels for city services at a time when we thought, after Sept. 11, things would be extremely difficult," said Councilman Nick Pacheco, chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee.
The council still must formally adopt the budget at a hearing Friday. Then the spending plan will be sent back to Hahn for his signature.
Hahn's office was pleased with the council's revised budget--especially the increased city reserve fund--and doesn't anticipate making major changes before Hahn signs it, said Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook.
Unlike Los Angeles County and the state, the city was able to avert major spending cuts because of an improving local economy combined with an increase in revenue from the Department of Water and Power.
Hahn did make some cuts, such as decreased travel and photocopying budgets, that tended to affect city workers rather than residents. The budget also maintained a citywide hiring freeze.
"A budget is a matter of priorities," said Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton. "At the end of the day, you have to be balanced."
About 260 miles of streets will be resurfaced, 10 miles of dirt alleys will be paved, 118 miles of sidewalks will be repaired and 123,000 trees will be trimmed.
Spending on police, fire and other basic services is slightly higher than the current fiscal year. The budget provides the Los Angeles Police Department with money for DNA evidence analysis equipment and positions, increased bomb-squad training and more canine units at Los Angeles International Airport.
The council rebuffed Hahn's proposal to eliminate 34 positions in special LAPD divisions, such as the ombudsman's office and community affairs group.
The council approved a motion by Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski that allows the Police Department to retain these positions but does not fund them.
Miscikowski said the move--backed by Interim LAPD Chief Martin Pomeroy--will allow the new police chief to structure the department as he sees fit, while requiring the department to find the $369,000 to fund the slots in its budget of more than $900 million.
"It puts back those positions right now that Chief Pomeroy indicated were important," she said.
Councilman Nate Holden, the lone dissenter against the motion, urged the council to fund the positions.
"Public safety should be Number One," he said.
"You vote for the positions, but you give them no money to fill those positions? ... It's a Mickey Mouse approach ... and I'm not going to support that."
Council members submitted dozens of amending motions for new spending in their districts, from landscaping highway medians in the San Fernando Valley to building a handicapped children's playground at the Venice Pier. These motions were all referred to committee, except one "safety net" that was approved. It provides $2 million for children's summer programs if the state Legislature cuts funding.