Los Angeles County CEO William T Fujioka, shown above in 2011, presented… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles County officials on Monday unveiled a $24.7-billion proposed budget that for the first time in five years calls for no major cuts and does not include a deficit.
County officials also said they expect to see the fiscal situation continue to improve as the housing and labor markets recover, boosting tax revenue and reducing demand for social services.
However, county Chief Executive William T Fujioka said it will still be some time before the county’s departments – which took a 15% cut on average over the past five years – will see their funding restored to prerecession levels.
The implementation of healthcare reform and state prison realignment are wild cards in budget projections, he said. In particular, the budget impact of implementing the federal Affordable Care Act by January 2014 remains unclear.
In the last five years, the county did not have the layoffs, furloughs or major program cuts endured by the city of Los Angeles and many other municipalities. The county even saw its Standard & Poor's credit rating raised last fall. But the agency had to dip into its reserves, while most county employees have not had a raise since 2009 and more than 2,000 positions were eliminated.
The county is at the table with unions representing its public safety employees and will be going into negotiations with its other employee groups in the coming months. The unions have signaled that they will be pushing for raises.
SEIU Local 721, which represents about 55,000 county workers, planned a mass “rally for raises” to coincide with Tuesday’s meeting of the county Board of Supervisors, where Fujioka will formally present the budget.
Fujioka would not say if the proposed budget included possible salary increases, citing ongoing negotiations. But he said, “Our board has already stated publicly that when it’s possible, we will be talking to our labor groups about a cost-of-living increase.”
The proposed spending plan includes funding to address ongoing concerns about abuses in the county jails, including $1 million for the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence and $5 million in provisional funding to create an office of inspector general to monitor the sheriff’s department, pending a cost analysis.
It also includes $2.3 million in funding for juvenile day reporting centers to divert youth away from probation camps as dictated in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is overseeing reforms at the camps.
Fujioka praised the fiscal restraint of the county’s board, which allowed agencies to get through the recession relatively unscathed at a time when others have implemented layoffs and program cuts and some have filed for bankruptcy.
“If you look at other entities, they did not demand the strict compliance with fiscal policies and fiscal discipline,” he said.