City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, standing to the left of Mayor… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
Citing continuing financial woes, the city's top budget advisor urged the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday to follow through on more than 200 employee job cuts tabled earlier this year and recommended including 50 assistant city attorneys on the list.
More cost-cutting is necessary because the city has already dug a $16.6-million budget shortfall four months into its new fiscal year, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said. The gap will grow wider if 209 city jobs, mostly made up of police clerical staff, are not eliminated by Jan. 1, the budget advisor said in a Tuesday update.
Additional savings can be achieved by laying off 50 lawyers in the city attorney's office, Santana said. The office is being targeted because the attorneys' labor group, the Los Angeles City Attorneys Assn., has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city's use of furloughs as a way to save money, he said.
If the city were to halt the furloughs and instead lay off attorneys to achieve the same savings, it would also avoid any potential costly settlement of the lawsuit, he said. A court-ordered mediation is set to begin in mid-November.
Overall, city revenues are growing at about 3% a year as the economy slowly improves, Santana said. But expenditures are growing faster, at about 5%, he said. The city's reserve fund is at a healthy $225 million, but Santana is urging the city not to touch it to save jobs.
If the city doesn't act on the layoffs, the shortfall will grow by $6 million next year and an additional $16 million the following year, he said. That's on top of a structural imbalance of $216 million projected for the 2013-14 budget year.
"We can't wait until the end of the fiscal year," Santana said.
William Carter, senior deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, criticized Santana's report as an "outrageous and shortsighted attack" on public safety. The budget advisor's recommendations come a day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent a letter to council members supporting a variety of cost-cutting measures, including a ballot measure stripping the city attorney's office of responsibility for civil cases.
Carter said previous attempts to amend the City Charter have failed because the public values the independence of an elected city attorney. It was last considered, and rejected, by the city's Charter Commission in 1999, he said.
As for layoffs, the city attorney's office has already been cut deeply in the last three years, losing 110 attorneys and 60 support personnel, Carter said. At the same time, it has stepped up collection from deadbeats, delivering $7.8 million in taxes and debt owed to the city last year, he said.
"They are cutting into public safety and cutting off the hand that collects the debt for the city," Carter said.
Any layoffs and cost reductions would have to gain approval of the full council.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, called Villaraigosa's letter a sobering reminder that the city is still suffering.
"Inevitably, all of these solutions will be unpopular with someone, and some may be unpopular with just about everyone,'' he said.