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Mayor's $8.1-billion budget proposal: No layoffs; hire firefighters; fix streets

LA Mayor Garcetti unveiled his new $8.1-billion budget proposal, saying it's time to get back to basics.
April 14, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has unveiled his new $8.1-billion budget proposal. It calls for hiring more firefighters and fixing city streets. The mayor says it's time to get back to basics.

For the mayor, it's all about the city of Los Angeles living within its means.

"We know how to control our costs," said Garcetti. "It demonstrates that we know how to budget for the long term, and that we know how to earn back the trust of a public too often let down by short-term thinking."

On Monday, Garcetti announced his first city budget. There will be no layoffs, and he is proposing several ways to save money.

The proposed budget bridges a projected shortfall of $242 million in fiscal year 2014-15 with the help of better-than-expected returns from taxes, savings on employee pensions and benefits, the elimination of vacant positions, grants and surplus funds, and $47.9 million from the city's reserves.

The budget assumes there will be no cost-of-living increases for city workers. They will be asked to contribute 10 percent of their healthcare premiums, and the mayor plans to save about $18 million through pension changes.

Garcetti also wants to postpone the city's business tax.

"It's a tax that taxes you even when you lose money," said Garcetti.

But he says the budget is still shaky this year, and he had to delay it for one year. City watchers say it's a budget that plays it safe.

"The mayor's gone out there and sort of outlining that this is going to be a multi-year process: This is the year you close the budget; next year you stabilize; and the following year you're going to have some growth," said Jack Humphreville, who writes the LA Watchdog column for CityWatch.

The mayor promises millions to fix broken sidewalks and streets, and to merge the police and fire dispatch centers, saying that will improve 911 response times. All fire trucks will also get GPS units.

"I also inherited a department that was lacking in leadership, with decades-old technology and laden with redundant systems that cost us precious seconds," said Garcetti.

There will be a few increases. The cost to get into the Los Angeles Zoo will go up by one dollar. And if you go to a L.A. city public pool it goes from free to one dollar.

The proposal also would result in a $282 million reserve, which Garcetti said is the highest in the city's history. The city also would not be dipping into its budget stabilization fund, sending a "strong signal to the country, the bond markets, to our people that this city is getting its fiscal house in order," he said.

The mayor's proposal will be reviewed by the City Council, which is expected to begin daily budget hearings April 29. City leaders typically aim to approve a budget -- with revisions from the council -- by May or before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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