• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

City Council considers police, fire layoffs

February 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The city of Los Angeles is facing big budget problems, and now it seems jobs that were once exempt from looming layoffs may also be on the chopping block. A Los Angeles City Council committee ordered analysts Monday to consider slashing police and fire department jobs, and the cuts will not stop there.

The L.A. City Council chambers were standing room only Monday as a budget and finance committee held a first hearing on layoffs and cutbacks in city services. It's grim.

L.A.'s chief administrative officer, Miguel Santana, calls it a budget crisis unlike any the city has experienced. Three city departments, including disability, would be eliminated. As many as 1,500 layoffs could result from attempts to balance a budget with a $208-million deficit.

"The reality is we could not act fast enough to be able to eliminate that deficit in its entirety," said Santana. "The reality is that our reserve will now have to absorb that huge loss."

"At a certain point the council only has two tools, once all the negotiations, once all the discussion the council ends up with two tools, you lay people off or you furlough them," said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks, budget committee chairman.

Santana says the cost of postponing layoffs would be $383,000 a day -- or four city positions. Fifteen-hundred layoffs are possible. A thousand would save $65 million.

Also proposed: eliminating departments like Disability or Environmental affairs and Human Services.

"As the second largest city and environmental leader in the nation, it is fitting for Los Angeles to have an environmental affairs department," said Joyce Perkins, vice president, L.A. Environmental Affairs Commission.

The recommendation is to cancel the fire department's next recruit class and lay off civilian employees.

"You are already closing 28 ambulances and fire companies every day in the city because of this budget crisis, and now there's talk about closing another 10 ambulances," said Pat McOsker, president, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.

The deficit grows bigger each day and so does the possibility of more layoffs and a $300-million deficit next year is putting a lot of pressure on the city council to act fast.

The first vote on the budget proposals is Wednesday.