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April 29, 2011

...Budget Drama at City Hall!

In the midst of LA's City Council Budget Hearings and a department-by-department examination of the Mayor's proposed $6.9 billion budget, it was Yogi Bear who stirred the most rigorous debate, courtesy of Recreation and Parks Commission President Barry Sanders who continues to bemoan the failure of his park advertising scheme.


Against a backdrop of Union deliberations over their contract with the City of LA and in the midst of presentations by the Police and Fire Departments, the City Controller and the City Attorney, and the Finance and Pensions departments, the introduction of Yogi Bear into the discourse borders on the misdirection typically reserved for sleight of hand artists.


The Mayor's proposed budget of $6.9 billion includes $4.3 billion in General Fund costs and several strategies for overcoming an anticipated General Fund deficit of $463 million.


The most interesting whisper came during Wednesday's opening session when LA's Chief Administrative Officer reported that the anticipated revenue for 2011-2012 would actually increase by 0.1%, begging the question "Where does all that money go?"


Then began the litany of General Fund expenses, including the cost of two labor forces, the current city staff and the 30 thousand LA City retirees. With current pension contributions at $800 million and projected to climb to $1.6 billion, the unavoidable long term budget balancing solution must address labor, healthcare, and pension costs.


Meanwhile, the Coalition of Unions, representing 19,000 employees, voted on the Mayor's proposal to reduce salaries and increase healthcare contributions in return for an end to furloughs and an agreement to forgo layoffs.  


Of the 18 participating unions, 4 voted against the proposal, including the union that represents LA's Deputy City Attorneys which rejected it 143-288 and then issued a press release condemning the proposal.


The irony here is the fact that it was the City Attorney's office that defended the City of LA in its fight to impose the furloughs, winning the legal battle on behalf of the City. Much was made of this dichotomy of loyalties as Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter defended his department during the opening day of the Budget Hearings.


To review the Mayor's Proposed Budget, visit the Mayor's website where you will find the Mayor's Message along with details of the budget, positions and salaries, and revenue outlook.


To follow the daily Budget Hearings, the schedule and agenda is available at the Budget & Finance website. The schedule is fairly fluid, sometimes moving quickly, sometimes slowing down, so check back often if you want to participate in the review of a specific department.


To listen in on Council Phone, dial (213) 621-CITY (2489), (310) 547-CITY (2489), (310) 471-CITY (2489) or (818) 904-9450


For Live and On-Demand Streaming Video of the Budget Hearings, video and audio archives are available as well as the hearings when they are in session.

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