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City council to make budget cuts next week

April 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The budget battle will heat up Monday in the L.A. City Council with some very tough choices in store on how to cut costs. The decisions will affect virtually every resident in the city. Last year, 17 million people visited Los Angeles city libraries and if the budget goes through as expected, the doors will be closed even more for those people. Much may depend on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power money that was promised but so far not delivered.

Los Angeles has 73 libraries and despite the popularity of computers and the Internet, books are still checked out. Thousands of people surf the library computers. The Chinatown branch is often packed. Libraries are already closed on Sundays because of the budget demands. They could soon be cut back even more with their hours. Three-hundred-twenty-eight positions may be eliminated in libraries.

"If the cuts do go through, and again this is all the beginning of a very public debate with the council, we'll look at reducing our service from six days to five days per week," said L.A. City Librarian Martin Gomez. "[Hours are] to be determined. I think it depends on the final classifications and the folks that we have to work with."

Every city department faces a similar problem. Cuts are proposed for nearly all of them. Street Services like repaving probably will have to be delayed. Things like tree trimming will be put off. Four-hundred-thirteen positions are proposed for elimination and the next budget for Parks and Recreation.

"The services that they're going to feel the biggest hit are the things they depend on," said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks. "Many people in poor communities look for free services at the park."

Next week, Parks will share the first hearings and the $450 million deficit for next year. The results of those hearings and new revenue projections will determine the city's direction. The city is still waiting for the DWP. The DWP promised the city a $73-million transfer. Los Angeles already took $83 million out of its reserve account as part of this year's balancing act.

City Controller Wendy Greuel says reserves are dangerously low.

"Without the DWP money, we are close to $30 million in our reserve fund which I think is not enough when we're supposed to have $220 million in our reserve fund," said Greuel.

Mayor Villaraigosa says without more concessions from labor and management, there will be more cuts to go around.

"It's very difficult, almost impossible here, to balance a budget without some service cuts, without furloughs and or layoffs," said Villaraigosa.

The DWP finally gives a reason for its delay. A spokesperson tells me that the DWP board is waiting until after next Tuesday's council meeting. It wants to see if the council does anything about reversing a rate increase. Tuesday is the last day the council can do that.


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