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Proposed L.A. County budget shifts money to jails, foster care reform

April 14, 2014|By Abby Sewell
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Los Angeles County officials proposed a budget Monday that would pump money into reforming some major problem areas, including the jail and foster care systems, and expanding staffing in medical facilities to manage the transition to federal healthcare reform.

As part of a new $26-billion spending plan that builds on post-recession economic improvements, County Chief Executive William T Fujioka proposes adding more than 1,300 new positions to county government, including nurses, social workers and staff for the newly created Sheriff's Department inspector general.

The county currently has a workforce of more than 100,000.

For a second consecutive year, officials project a balanced budget, after years of deficits during the recession, when the county dipped into reserve funds to soften the blow of the economic downturn. They also made deep cuts to department budgets and froze hiring and pay.

Fujioka said the new budget aims to stabilize programs and restore some of what officials cut during the recession.

"We're not just going to restore it based on what we've cut in the past," he said. "We're going to restore funding in an intelligent and very thoughtful process to ensure that we maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the funds that we put in our departments."

Agreements reached with the county employee unions last year and early this year included a 6% salary increase over three years for all employees. The county also agreed to hire 450 new social workers by October in a bid to get caseloads down. The proposed budget adds 100 new children's social worker positions to fulfill that agreement -- the remainder will come from filling vacant positions, Fujioka said.

The budget also includes $36.5 million to implement recommendations by a commission that studied violence in the county's jails, including staffing the inspector general's office and placing more cameras in the jails to monitor the conduct of inmates and jailers.

Fujioka said perhaps the most critical concern for this year is shoring up the county healthcare system to retain newly insured patients who now have the ability to choose where to seek healthcare. The budget proposal includes more than 700 nursing positions.

The county Board of Supervisors will consider the initial budget proposal Tuesday, and will hold hearings in May before adopting a final spending plan in June.

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Twitter: @sewella

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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