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Los Angeles deficit may force massive layoffs

January 29, 2010 12:41:06 AM PST
A report released Friday shows drastic measures are needed to offset the growing Los Angeles city budget deficit, including layoffs and furloughs. But while some say hundreds of job cuts are necessary, others are looking for alternatives. More than 30,000 city employees may be asked to take pay cuts and pay more for their pensions. It hasn't been this bad since the Great Depression, and one solution is laying off more than 1,000 employees.

"We're looking at maybe many more layoffs than that over the next few years," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The city's administrative officer had to find ways how to make up a $199 million deficit. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich would lose 100 people in his office if the cuts are approved, and he doesn't deny he might go to court to stop them.

"We're bringing cases in, we're doing our job," Trutanich said. "Why do you want to change something that's working?"

Among the casualties of the proposed layoffs is the office of human services. The office and its 26 employees would be eliminated. The LAPD would be untouched by layoffs, but

Positions would be eliminated in the fire department, but there are no real layoffs in the field. There would be 57 sworn firefighter positions eliminated, and 22 civilians would also be laid off. The LAPD would be untouched by layoffs.

"It doesn't have to only be layoffs if everybody took a cut," Villaraigosa said.

The mayor may ask for increases in pension payments for city employees along with the cuts, but dipping into the city's reserve fund won't help.

"Bottom line is, revenue's aren't there. We can't spend $7 billion when we're bringing in $6 billion. We need to make it balance and that's what we're going to be doing," said L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine.

Zine is one of six people, including the mayor, who asked the chief administrative officer nine days ago to plan to eliminate 1,000 positions. Along with the 26 people in human services and 100 people in the city attorney's office, the proposed layoffs also include 100 from street services and 125 from recreation and parks.

"An alternative is, maybe people take across-the-board pay cut. To save those jobs, that is one option. There are other options that we are going to be exploring. Bottom line is, if we can't make it happen, there will be layoffs," said L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

The city council will take a look at its options, including those layoffs, next week.