The Los Angeles Harbor Commission will consider cutting its proposed operating budget for next year by 11% today to accommodate concerns by Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa that port revenue may be lagging too much to support the spending plan, officials said Monday.
The proposal by Harbor Department staff is in addition to a suggestion by Harbor Commission President Nicholas Tonsich to postpone $20 million in spending on construction projects until after July 1, when Villaraigosa takes office as mayor and appoints a new Harbor Commission.
The proposals would allow the commission to vote today to approve the rest of the $693.5-million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, he said. The 11% cut in the $240-million proposed operating budget would total about $26.4 million.
"We have tried to accommodate" concerns over spending, Tonsich said. "The capital expenditures will be deferred for a while until the revenue catches up."
Villaraigosa spokesman Joe Ramallo said the mayor-elect's staff had been talking to port officials since Friday about paring the budget to address the possibility of weak revenue.
"We want a responsible budget that is realistic," he said.
Port officials have predicted flat revenue for the early part of next year, but had proposed a 16% increase in the budget, including the creation of 94 positions.
Tonsich said he hopes to keep the new jobs in the budget, although the debate over where to cut is expected to continue as the board meets today.
Arley Baker, a port spokesman, refused to detail the cuts. "We met with them last week, but the dialogue is ongoing, and no decisions have been confirmed."
Tonsich said the deferrals should not have a major effect on efforts to spruce up the waterfront. The commission already has approved $1.9 million for the environmental review of the 30-year, $531-million "Bridge to Breakwater" project on the San Pedro waterfront that has been championed by Mayor James K. Hahn and his administration.
The commission also voted last week to approve a $4.05-million landscaping contract and a $926,867 bike path and walkway in San Pedro.
At Villaraigosa's request, the Harbor Commission agreed Wednesday to postpone a budget vote to give the incoming mayor an opportunity to review it. Villaraigosa also asked for a delay in a commission vote on a 50-year lease for a port-owned marina in San Pedro, and that issue was left off today's agenda.
"We want to review whether it may create some legal exposure by not moving ahead," Tonsich said.
He and the other four members of the Harbor Commission were appointed by Hahn, who lost the May 17 runoff election to Villaraigosa. Tonsich said he has informed Villaraigosa that he would stay on during the transition.