Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by John Schreiber.

Los Angeles faces a $95.28 million shortfall this year mostly due to underfunded police overtime and deficits in the fire department, city officials said Thursday.

Water main breaks, overtime for special events, resurfacing projects, helicopter maintenance, a school board special election and on-going litigation were among the other reasons for the shortfall, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said in his first quarterly financial progress report for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which started July 1.

In the police department, overtime costs, salary adjustments for 950 sworn employees and a hiring shortfall account for $69.78 million of the $95.28 million deficit, Santana said.

Another $20 million of the shortfall comes from the fire department due to overtime costs, a plan that added ambulances and a sunsetting labor contract clause having to do with hours paid for for holiday, vacation and sick days that results in overtime costs.

Santana said the city could use $40 million reserve and unappropriated funds to pay for police overtime, which would bring the $95.27 million shortfall down to $51.94 million.

The deficit could be cut further to $22.18 million if the police department works to further control overtime, Santana said.

Santana said he is “confident”  city officials will find ways to cover the shortfall by the end of the year, but at this time “no funding is immediately available to close the $22.18 million gap.”

Deficits continue to be expected in the following year, Santana also said.

Labor negotiations are ongoing and the following fiscal year, 2015-16, is projected to have a $165.1 million deficit, so “the current fiscal year requires continued fiscal restraint,” he said.

Santana also raised the concern that the city’s “pension reform efforts are being challenged on many fronts and recent or pending changes to the actuarial assumptions of both pension systems, including a decrease in the investment rate of return from 7.75 percent to 7.50 percent, will likely increase the city’s projected pension costs for 2015-16 and beyond.”

Santana also said the city started the year on good footing with credit agencies due to a reserve fund that makes up 7.45 percent of the city’s budget, which was greater than the budget estimate of 5.53 percent.

This puts the city in a better position to face one-time liabilities, as well as eliminating the city’s structural deficit by the 2018-19 fiscal year, Santana said.

City News Service

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