Getting down to serious business, the Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday recommended that cuts be made to the police and fire department -- sacred cows in city budgeting -- as well as to council offices, including the mayor's.
The city is operating $208.5 million in the red and must make drastic cuts to make its fiscal budget by July. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana is recommending 1,500 city-worker layoffs as well as the elimination of the the Human Relations Commission, Commission on the Status of Women, the Children, Youth and Families Commission, the departments of Disability and Environmental Affairs, the Fire Department's next recruit class, and the Department of Cultural Affairs grants program.
"The city is facing a budget crisis unlike any crisis that it has ever experienced," Santana wrote to the council and the mayor. "The recession which began in 2008 caused deeper revenue declines than any post-World War II recession. The recession was much deeper than anticipated in the budget and has greatly affected the majority of the city's revenue categories."
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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, however, seems to be resisting the bitter pill of layoffs, saying that they could be avoided if unions accepted pension and pay adjustments.
Also, cuts to the council's lavish spending -- including that of the mayor -- had not previously been on the table, amazingly. Council members enjoy the highest city salaries in the nation along with staffs of 17 to 25 each, up to eight cars (gas included) per office, and as much as $2 million a year each for whatever they wish.
The Budget and Finance Committee includes council members Bernard Parks, Greig Smith, Jose Huizar, Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz. Parks said the the police and fire departments take up 80 percent of city spending.
"If 80 percent of the budget is untouched, it's impossible to get to July 1 with a reserve fund and be solvent,'' Parks said.