Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled a $7.2 billion budget proposal Friday that includes 231 layoffs and would reduce employee retirement benefits while raising the retirement age from 60 to 67.
Seeking to close a $238 million deficit, Villaraigosa proposed using nearly $83 million in one-time solutions that include payments from the dissolution of the city's redevelopment agency, special parking revenue for basic services and $29 million in MediCal reimbursements anticipated for this year.
The remaining approximately two-thirds of the deficit would be covered through cuts or savings that are ongoing, including a 6 to 12 percent budget cut across across a wide swath of city departments. The mayor and City Council offices would each take an 8 percent budget cut under the plan.
The mayor's proposal would also require city workers to either pay 6 to 10 percent more toward their health insurance or pay more in co-pays and receive fewer benefits, starting Jan. 1.
"To keep our fiscal house in order, we're going to have to reduce the long-term budget cost drivers: labor, health care and pension costs," Villaraigosa said during a news conference with Police Chief Charlie Beck and Fire Chief Brian Cummings at his side.
The budget, which will be vetted by the City Council over the next two months, proposed eliminating another 438 unfilled city jobs. The combined layoffs and position eliminations would save the city $26 million, according to the mayor's office.
Most of the layoffs, 159, would target civilian clerical and support workers in the Los Angeles Police Department. The remaining layoffs would be spread across 10 other city departments that include: Animal Services, Finance, Fire, General Services, Information Technology, Neighborhood Empowerment, Personnel, Street Services, the City Clerk's Office and the Ethics Commission.
The layoffs would bring the total civilian general fund workforce to 21,715 employees, a 16 percent reduction since 1991, according to the mayor.
The budget would maintain LAPD hiring and includes a proposal to move more than 200 employees in the General Services Department's Office of Public Safety into the Police Department, saving the city about $2.9 million per year.
The move would bring the ranks of sworn LAPD officers to above 10,000 — close to Villaraigosa's stated goal in 2005 of adding 1,000 cops to the department.
Villaraigosa proposed restoring some funding to the Los Angeles Fire Department, which had its budget slashed by more than $50 million last year during the rollout of an updated deployment strategy.
The mayor's budget would restore six ambulances to service during peak hours of the day. It would pay for the department to re-open training centers in order to begin hiring new firefighters starting in September 2013.
Intense media scrutiny of the department's emergency response times under the new deployment plan have led some City Council members to call for restoring funding to the department. Cummings told the council this week that LAFD response times are "very good" for a big city.
The budget would apply property tax money approved by voters in 2011 to expand public library hours on Monday and Wednesday nights as well as Friday mornings at 64 branch libraries.
It also proposes using money from Measure R to increase street re-paving by 10 percent, from 735 to 800 miles per year and filling 350,000 potholes, a 17 percent bump over this year.
City employee unions have criticized Villaraigosa for not doing a better job collecting revenues owed to the city in order to avoid layoffs.
In an effort to combat the criticism, the mayor today also announced the appointment of an inspector general for citywide collections, a position that was approved by the City Council in May 2011. Villaraigosa chose Fernando Campos, a Harbor Department grants administrator, to lead the collection effort.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city's top budget analyst, told the council this week that Los Angeles would be unable to maintain the size of its public safety departments without raising taxes. He recommended doubling the documentary transfer tax, a property sales tax, and increasing a parking tax by 5 percent. The additional taxes, which would need to be approved by voters, would bring in about $140 million, Santana said.
Villaraigosa did not call for the tax increases as part of his budget package. In his State of the City speech Wednesday, he proposed putting another county tax measure to fund transportation projects on the November ballot.
Union leaders blasted the mayor's budget proposal. Cheryl Parisi, who heads the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents about 22,000 city workers, said the mayor is out of touch with municipal employees.
"The mayor lives a lifestyle where he is chauffeured around our city, jets around the country and rarely is faced with the stark financial or physical safety decisions that our city workers ... are dealing with every day in this tough economy," Parisi said. "For city workers who make an average retirement of $32,000 a year, it is insulting and disheartening to hear the mayor speak in such a dismissive way about our pensions and about raising our retirement age."
City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who are running to replace Villaraigosa when he is termed out next year, both opposed the call for layoffs.
"Further service cuts — especially in the police department — would drag down our economy and our neighborhoods," Garcetti said. "I believe the priority must be on economic growth, both to help families and to generate revenues for services like ambulances, potholes and parks."
Greuel pointed to $130 million in wasteful spending or missing revenue identified in her audits.
"Why hasn't the city improved debt collection or cut down on duplication of services? Why do millions of dollars of gasoline, purchased by city taxpayers, remain totally unaccounted for?" Greuel said. "Instead of answers, we are faced with a budget that lays off hundreds of employees and, consequently, cuts services for our residents."
The City Council Budget and Finance Committee will begin holding hearings on the mayor's budget on April 27.