LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The City Council voted today to move forward with a set of recommendations to try to pull Los Angeles out of a potential $675 million budget shortfall this year, and layoffs of city employees are still on the table.
Although the council's action today did not initiate layoffs, it keeps them under consideration and instructs City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn and his staff to look at various ways to keep the city financially stable, including using most of what remains in its reserves, about $250 million, and borrowing $150 million.
“We recognize the gravity of this recommendation,'' Llewellyn told the City Council. “Each of these employees provides important services, and our residents need and will miss that service. We also understand that we are throwing upside down the lives of each and every one of these employees. Still, we did not see another way to cover the current shortfall.''
Llewellyn told the council these recommendations are “not a menu,'' in that they don't get to choose -- the city needs to enact all of them, which include borrowing money for the budget and using most of what's left of the city's reserves.
The recommendations also include a proposal for various city departments to see whether capital improvement projects can be deferred, which could create another $150 million for Los Angeles.
Several of the 31 recommendations included having reports conducted that would come back to the Budget and Finance Committee by Jan. 31. The City Council's winter recess begins Friday.
“Everyone continues to suffer through this period. There is not one person that I've encountered that has not expressed the agony and the personal sacrifices that had this has all caused,'' Martinez said.
“Our cases are surging, and our state and county continue to shut down businesses. So let's be honest, we are in a very difficult financial situation because of the inaction of Congress ... (the) failure of our federal government to provide assistance has left our city and countless other cities and our residents and our workforce struggling to survive.''
The council's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday voted to have the list considered, as well as the prospect of laying off about 1,900 city employees -- most from the Los Angeles Police Department.
The layoffs were part of a proposal from Llewellyn's second fiscal status report for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The committee voted to reduce the recommended LAPD layoffs by about two-thirds, with a proposal to cut 355 sworn officers and 273 civilian employees, although those haven't been approved yet.
Llewellyn's financial report also recommends layoffs affecting 143 positions in the City Attorney's Office, 45 in the Animal Services Department and 27 in the Bureau of Engineering.
Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission today that a hiring freeze has already hampered his department and laying off officers would be devastating.
Moore said it is important to keep academy candidates coming in to replace needed officers.
“This is not saber-rattling, looking at staffing levels (of what) a hiring freeze alone would do,'' Moore said. “All operations will be shuttered in the Harbor Jail, in the Pacific Jail in the Hollywood yard. These are jails that are (local) ... that allow officers to book, process and release individuals locally, rather than at our three regional jails.''
Moore said cutbacks with of 273 fewer civilians on his staff would reduce the number of forensics employees and other non-sworn-officer duties.
Word of the potential layoffs was met with anger last week by the head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers.
“It's appalling that city officials and politicians are more interested in fattening their political slush funds by defunding the police department through laying off nearly 1,000 officers,'' LAPPL President Craig Lally told City News Service last week.
“The LAPD has been cut by $150 million to spare civilian layoffs and create huge reserves, and this latest proposal will further victimize Black and Hispanic residents who make up 70% of L.A.'s violent crime victims. It's disgusting."
The City Council had required departments to submit proposals that cut their budgets by 3% in order to help balance the city's budget, which could translate into cutting city employees or having them take early retirement, within this fiscal year. However, Krekorian said that process may not have worked as intended.
“In my view, there is nothing whatsoever equitable about that exercise for many reasons, and each department will give a different argument about why they are not being treated equally by that 3% exercise,'' Krekorian said Monday.
The Los Angeles city government had about 50,000 employees prior to the pandemic. The City Council approved a plan in September to force more than 15,000 city workers to take one unpaid day off every two weeks, or a 10% pay cut, as part of a larger effort to balance the budget.
An amended plan to defer the furlough of city employees until Jan. 17 was approved by the council in October, but that was before the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Over the summer, organizations such as Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, with its proposed People's Budget, demanded reductions to bring the LAPD's share of the city's general fund expenditures to 1.64% from the current 30%.
The LAPD operating budget is about $1.8 billion and $3 billion overall, including pensions and other funds. The city's operating budget is about $6.6 billion and its total budget is about $10.5 billion this year.
Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a $150 million reduction to the LAPD budget.
Garcetti said last week he hopes laying off city employees, including LAPD personnel, will be a last-resort measure, but the city is prepared to do so amid financial struggles due to the health crisis.
“I hope that (layoffs are) at the very bottom of the list, and our city administrative officer has asked us ... all of our departments to say how will we close this worst-case scenario if there is no help,'' Garcetti said.
“The reason why I want layoffs to be the very last thing is it hits our most vulnerable employees and key services.''
The City Council has been mulling ways to reduce potential layoffs or furloughs in the last few months, but that was before the recent spike of COVID-19 cases.
Garcetti said during Wednesday's COVID-19 update that Los Angeles is still pleading for federal assistance to help cities recuperate from the economic effects of the pandemic.
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