The smoke has cleared and the mirrors have cracked exposing how City Hall’s mismanagement and reckless and irresponsible response to the worsening budget crisis has deepened LA’s financial problems.
And next year is worse — how often have the mayor and City Council been told that.
Yet, they continue the smoke-and-mirrors budget games, cooking the books and juggling accounts even as the lack of fiscal discipline by the Police, Fire and General Services Departments and the City Attorney’s Office crack holes in the supposedly “balanced budget” by nearly $20 million a month.
The Council’s Budget Committee on Monday took up the latest report from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana who found the deficit has now swollen to $87.84 million from $63.73 million in little more than a month since his last report.
Santana’s proposed solutions for the most part are more of the same penny-ante covering up of the problems: “Targeted salary saving from maintaining vacancies; additional revenue beyond what was budgeted; reimbursements from grants or special funds; reductions in expense accounts or surplus transfers from other funds.”
In other words, he’s proposing to paper over the problem once again just as city officials have done for the more than two years since the recession showed how the cost of salaries and benefits to city employees was no longer affordable.
Next year, a $400 million deficit looms — 10 percent of the general fund — and he year after is even bigger and even bigger the year after that.
City Hall is in financial quicksand, sinking deeper into the muck by the day.
The Fire Department, which just a few months ago, was put back to full staffing is now once again going to see ambulance and Hazmat services curtailed while the Police Department is supposed to lay off 225 civilian employees because maintaining the mayor’s fiction of “nearly” 10,000 cops is untouchable.
Already, hundreds of civilian LAPD jobs are being filled by able-bodied sworn officers who are paid far more and the proposed layoffs will only take more officers off the streets and put them in jobs that are done cheaper and probably better by civilians.
Responsible for nearly a third of the deficit, the LAPD is unrepentant.
Gerald Chaleff, who oversees LAPD budgeting, told “We would like to hold off discussion on this until February, until “During the summer, Chief (Charlie) Beck said we plan to live within
the Budget Committee that it is too early in the process to
make significant decisions that could affect staffing, Rick Orlov reported in today’s Daily News..
we have a better understanding on our accounts,” Chaleff said. “We will
have a better idea on reimbursable funds and other accounts. I think we
can cut our budget significantly.
our budget. That is still our goal. We do not want to have any more
layoffs, and it’s not fair to create fear among these workers.”
Gerald Chaleff, who oversees LAPD budgeting, told
“We would like to hold off discussion on this until February, until
“During the summer, Chief (Charlie) Beck said we plan to live within
“To consider any further reduction of the already severely understaffed civilian positions in the Police Department is ludicrous,” she said.
“Police officers are currently performing duties of critical vacant civilian positions,” Goff said. “The city/department continues to hire police officers only to take them out of the field to do civilian jobs.
“Support staff allows calls to be answered, vehicles to be ready for service, jails to be operational, reports to the processed to solve crimes and on and on, as the department cannot function on officers alone.”
Unfair? Ludicrous? How about “outrageous” and “irresponsible” and “destructive” to describe the failure of the mayor and Council to come to terms with the enormity of the budget problem.
They continue to chase the numbers downhill as if everything will return to normal next month or next year.
They have masked over a massive structural deficit for years instead of getting their arms around the problem and coming up with a real solution that reopens libraries and parks and restores other basic services.
The attitude that the budget means nothing, that cost-cutting can wait until February as Chaleff says runs through almost every department as outlined by Santana’s report.
They are not living within their means in great part because the budget itself is a work of fiction just like last year’s and the year’s before.
Sooner rather than later the bills are coming due and there will be hell to pay.
City officials and union leaders need a reality check. The pain will only be worse every day they put off facing the need to come up with a plan that protects the jobs of city workers and the services they provide and brings costs in line with revenues.
That will require eliminating non-essential services — not police on the streets, firefighters in ambulances, librarians and parks workers. It will require the unions to make concessions on salaries and pensions and the public to face the facts that a temporary increase in taxes is needed to make such a deal happen.