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First round of city layoffs to hit Thursday

March 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The first layoff notices are going out Thursday, as city officials struggle with a budget crisis and try to reduce future layoffs.It's the beginning of a long process designed to help balance the budget.

The City Council has approved 4,000 layoffs. At the same time, there are some council members who don't want to replace city police officers who retire.

The City Council once again looked at ways to cut the deficit without destroying city services such as street maintenance.

The first round of eliminated positions starts Thursday with layoff notices heading out to 15 employees. The total will end up being 401 layoffs.

"The goal here is to eliminate 1,000 positions. Some of these positions will be vacated because they were transferred to a special fund, some of them will be vacated through ERIP, the early retirement program, and some of them will be vacated through layoffs," said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

The mayor and many council members want employees to agree to more pay cuts and pension contribution increases, but unions don't like that.

"I know Rome is burning, but at some point, I still think there are things we can do save positions, save people at no cost to the general fund," said Los Angeles City Councilmember Janice Hahn.

There has been a growing feeling by some members of the City Council to stop filling LAPD positions left vacant by retirement. It's called hiring for attrition. At least three council members Eyewitness News spoke with were for not hiring for attrition. However, it keeps the LAPD at a consistent level at just under 5,000 officers.

Council President Eric Garcetti said that it's not about how many LAPD officers there are, but how many are on the street fighting crime.

"You can have 10,000 police officers working fewer hours, and you can pretend you have more people there, but you can have 9,500 officers work more hours. It's still the same amount of hours in the street. So I think there's been an over fixation on the number of police officers that we have as opposed to the coverage that they're providing," said Garcetti.

Garcetti is working with Chief Charlie Beck to take people from behind desks and on to the streets.

The mayor's chief of staff Matt Szabo said that any talk about reducing the police number is a non starter.

"If we don't continue to replace the officers who retire, the force will shrink by about 500 officers a year, and we've worked too hard, we've spent too much to build the force to where it is today," said Szabo. "Just to throw that away in a year or two's time makes no sense at all."

The next round of layoffs will be announced the first week of April by the Mayor. He's indicated that up to 2,500 jobs could be eliminated.