For the first time in 25 years, the city of Los Angeles might lay off workers for budgetary reasons. Raising the fee to spay or neuter pets, adding fewer left-turn arrows on city streets and selling under-used fire stations and libraries were also among the "bleak" recommendations Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made December 12 to reduce an estimated $86 million deficit. He also suggested pursuing a $20 million bond to cover major liability lawsuit settlements.
The recommendations were considered Monday by the Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance Committee. The deficit in the city's $7.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2008-09 grew $30 million over the past three weeks, from $56 million to $86 million, mainly because property and sales tax collections were much less than anticipated. Villaraigosa said the city cannot end its fiscal year with a shortfall. The deficit for fiscal year 2009-10, which starts July 1, 2009, is expected to be between $300 million and $400 million.
"Our budget realities for FY 2009-10 are quite bleak," Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to council members.
"In this turbulent environment, it is imprudent to leave an unsolved budget deficit and hope for better conditions. I am therefore outlining the first of what will be many steps I believe we must take to respond to current and likely ongoing fiscal decline."
The mayor asked that his recommendations be in place by the end of the month. It is not known how many employees might be laid off. The Personnel Department was directed to identify what positions can be eliminated. That move is in addition to talks with city unions, which are considering a voluntary retirement plan.
"I know that involuntary downsizing will be devastating for the affected individuals and the city as a whole, but I believe I have no choice–we must plan for various potential outcomes, including layoffs," Villaraigosa wrote.
In the past, most reductions in city jobs were achieved via attrition or leaving open positions unfilled. The last time the city laid off employees for budgetary reasons was 1983, when 12 people lost their jobs. Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department will not be included in any layoffs.
To generate $9.45 million in revenue, the mayor recommended selling the Old Harbor Animal Shelter, Cypress Park and Washington Irving libraries, and the Pico Union, Woodland Hills, Sun Valley and Westchester fire stations. The sale of those properties was assumed in the current budget, but council members representing those areas asked that the buildings be taken off the auction block. The mayor also suggested the City Administrative Office pursue a $19.26 million bond for major liability settlements.
The spay/neuter fee, which is $28, was to be increased to $32 next month. Instead, the mayor recommended that the Animal Services Department increase the cost to $40.