The Los Angeles City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Monday discussed holding more detailed meetings beginning in January on the proposed layoffs of about 1,900 city employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Committee Chair Councilman Paul Krekorian said he wants the committee, “to really evaluate a comparison of departmental budgets and departmental cuts, and ensure that those reflect the values that we wish to impose.”
Krekorian also said the committee would not be able to solve all the budget and layoff issues Monday because of their complex nature, even as the committee entered the fourth hour of its meeting. The meeting was still taking place as of 6:30 p.m.
The full City Council is expected to hear a financial report from City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn on Tuesday about the potential layoffs.
The City Council had required departments to submit proposals that cut their budgets by 3% in order to help balance the city’s budget, which could translate into cutting city employees or having them take early retirement, within this fiscal year.
However, Krekorian said that process may not have worked as intended.
“In my view, there is nothing whatsoever equitable about that exercise for many reasons, and each department will give a different argument about why they are not being treated equally by that 3% exercise,” Krekorian said.
Most of the layoffs proposed by Llewellyn’s second fiscal status report for the 2020-21 fiscal year would come from the Los Angeles Police Department, and it recommended 951 officers be laid off along with 728 civilian employees.
Committee members said they are still waiting to see how much in additional state and federal funds Los Angeles will receive, hoping more would be announced before layoffs become critical,
Committee member Councilman Bob Blumenfield called the report from Llewellyn “awful” because of the size of the potential layoffs, which could affect city services, and he said an option to use debt to cover some of the city’s lost revenue could be dangerous.
“We all know these suggestions that are being made are odious,” Blumenfield said. “The reliance on borrowing and reserves goes against all of my beliefs in terms of fiscal stewardship of the city.
“While the report is not specifically directing those layoffs, it’s bringing up those questions … but we can’t sugarcoat this. This is a terrible situation that we’re in.”
Blumenfield also said the city should be compensated for the money it has pent on COVID-19 testing sites .
`This office has projected that general fund revenues are likely to fall short of the 2020-21 budget by $600 million, and we believe this can get worse,” the CAO’s second quarter financial report reads.
“Without knowing the trajectory or end point of the pandemic itself, it is still too difficult to determine the full extent of our revenue shortfall. However, every revenue source has been impacted, and revenues tied to tourism, services, parking and retail are at risk of further decline.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said “these envisioned staffing reductions would devastate our ability to provide basic public safety, requiring the closure of local stations and jails, the reduction and elimination of services, and ultimately it would jeopardize the reforms and gains achieved in public safety over the last two decades.”
Moore told the committee that the LAPD does not overspend on its budget. He said the fiscal actions the city takes should not cut so many officers and that the council should find other ways to save money.
“I cannot support further reductions,” Moore said. “As every single one of our department employees have shown, whether sworn or civilian, police matter.
“It is critical in this time of such turmoil and crisis that the core responsibility of city government, maintaining public safety, be the top priority. It’s what the residents of this great city want, expect and deserve.”
The report also recommends layoffs affecting 143 positions in the City Attorney’s Office, 45 in the Animal Services Department and 27 in the Bureau of Engineering.
The Los Angeles city government had about 50,000 employees prior to the pandemic. The City Council approved a plan in September to force more than 15,000 city workers to take one unpaid day off every two weeks, or a 10% pay cut, as part of a larger effort to balance the budget.
An amended plan to defer the furlough of city employees until Jan. 17 was approved by the council in October, but that was before the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Word of the potential layoffs was met with anger last week by the head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers.
“It’s appalling that city officials and politicians are more interested in fattening their political slush funds by defunding the police department through laying off nearly 1,000 officers,” LAPPL President Craig Lally told City News Service last week.
“What makes it all the more galling is they are doing this during the shooting and homicide epidemic occurring in Los Angeles.
“The LAPD has been cut by $150 million to spare civilian layoffs and create huge reserves, and this latest proposal will further victimize Black and Hispanic residents who make up 70% of L.A.’s violent crime victims. It’s disgusting.”
Llewellyn said in prior budget reports that the city could lose as much as $400 to $600 million in general fund revenue by the end of this fiscal year. The latest report says the losses could be as high as $675 million by June 30 when the fiscal year ends.
According to the report, the reduction of the LAPD officers and personnel would save Los Angeles about $51 million.
Over the summer, organizations such as Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, with its proposed People’s Budget, demanded reductions to bring the LAPD’s share of the city’s general fund expenditures to 1.64% from the current 30%.
The LAPD operating budget is about $1.8 billion and $3 billion overall, including pensions and other funds. The city’s operating budget is about $6.6 billion and its total budget is about $10.5 billion this year.
Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a $150 million reduction to the LAPD budget.
Garcetti said last week he hopes laying off city employees, including LAPD personnel, will be a last-resort measure, but the city is prepared to do so amid financial struggles due to the health crisis.
“I hope that (layoffs are) at the very bottom of the list, and our city administrative officer has asked us … all of our departments to say how will we close this worst-case scenario if there is no help,” Garcetti said.
“The reason why I want layoffs to be the very last thing is it hits our most vulnerable employees and key services.”
The City Council has been mulling ways to reduce potential layoffs or furloughs in the last few months, but that was before the recent spike of COVID-19 cases.
Garcetti said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 update that Los Angeles is still pleading for federal assistance to help cities recuperate from the economic effects of the pandemic.