Los Angeles County’s CEO released a dire revised budget proposal Thursday that envisions deep across-the-board cuts that could result in the elimination of more than 3,200 positions and 655 layoffs, more than half of which could affect the sheriff’s department.
County CEO Sachi Hamai said the dramatic cuts are needed to counter a $935.3 million budget shortfall, due largely to severe revenue declines and increased expenses to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am very disappointed to report that significant cuts in county programs and personnel will be needed as a result of the serious economic downturn caused by this ongoing public health emergency,” Hamai said in a statement. “This is not the outcome any of us wants to see, especially as our county staff continues to serve with great commitment during this crisis. I want to wholeheartedly thank our more than 100,000 employees for their incredible dedication to public service at this difficult time.”
Hamai said there is still a chance some of the cuts could be reversed in September, when a supplemental budget is developed when more is known about how much money the county may receive from the state and federal governments.
“This budget marks a point in time, not the finish line,” Hamai said.
The $34.9 billion spending proposal includes $453.5 million in department cuts and $59.3 million in management reductions. Most notably, the budget plan calls for the elimination of 3,251 positions — 2,596 of which are already vacant, but 655 of which will result in layoffs.
While the cuts are across the board, public safety agencies such as the sheriff’s department, would be among the hardest hit because they are primarily funded with sales tax and other local revenues that have been disrupted by the pandemic.
According to Hamai’s letter to the Board of Supervisors, which will review the proposal Monday, the sheriff’s department would see a $145.5 million cut, including the elimination of nearly 1,400 positions. Although most of those positions are already vacant, the cut would result in 346 potential layoffs, according to the letter.
Also facing cuts and layoffs would be the District Attorney’s office, Public Defender’s Office and the Board of Supervisors’ office. Various other agencies would also face the elimination of positions, including the Department of Public Health, which would receive a roughly $10 million cut and see 58 vacant positions eliminated.
“These proposed cuts are not intended to penalize any department, or to diminish the importance of their work,” Hamai said in her statement. “Rather, these curtailments are part of an equitable process of cost reductions that will affect all county departments.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has long been at loggerheads with the Board of Supervisors over his agency’s budget, has accused the county of already underfunding the sheriff’s department by about $400 million. On Wednesday night, he posted a message on social media calling out Supervisor Kathryn Barger, accusing her of withholding $30 million for the sheriff’s department body-worn camera program.