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City Coffers Owed More Than $540 Million -- Enough To Have Avoided Budget Crisis That Almost Bankrupted Los Angeles

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Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 5:02 PM

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Los Angeles' worst budget crisis in years -- this spring -- was over a deficit that neared $500 million and even surpassed it as the City Council spent more cash and failed to cut costs until last-minute.

On Monday city officials announced that more than $540 million owed to the city has not been collected, with more than three-quarters of the cash 120 days past due. Officials vowed to create a "collections sheriff" to crack the whip on debtors.

Because when you're owed free money and already have mayoral staff of more than 200 people, what you really need is an opportunity to add one more bureaucrat to the city's pension-strained payroll.

But we digress.

Council President Eric Garcetti had it right when he said:

"When we look at the money that we literally leave on the table each year ... it's unconscionable ... It's unconscionable when this has required us to cut services. It's unconscionable when the people of Los Angeles deserve this money. It's really the people who have been shortchanged.''

Council leaders want to create that sheriff or, in their words, "inspector general," to collect the cash.

Garcetti noted if only 10 percent (more than $50 million) of the outstanding payments were collected libraries could be put on their old six-day schedules again and fire companies might not face rolling blackouts anytime soon.

Councilman Paul Koretz, meanwhile, said "heads should roll" if the council doesn't heed the recommendations of a committee on outstanding payments and make some deep changes so that the cash is collected.

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us. Follow us on Twitter, too: @dennisjromero.

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