L.A.'s top budget official warns against expanding city services

L.A.'s top budget official warns against expanding city services
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, shown at L.A. City Hall in 2010, says the city should not be expanding services at this time. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

L.A.'s top budget official on Monday advised the city's elected leaders to resist the temptation to expand services, saying they should work toward eliminating a recurring deficit by 2018 instead.

In a 37-page report, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said a rebounding economy and greater stability in the city's own finances have created new pressure to add or expand local government. He recommended that council members focus on other initiatives, such as reducing entry-level city salaries and securing new health-care concessions from the workforce.


No raises should be provided for three years, Santana said.

"In summary, while our economy is recovering, we are not in a position to restore old services or add new services," Santana wrote. "Instead, we need to stay the course."

The report comes roughly a month before Mayor Eric Garcetti is due to release his first yearly budget proposal, a document that will be subjected to multiple hearings by the City Council. Garcetti must come up with a strategy for eliminating a shortfall that is currently estimated at $242 million.

Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the mayor's team is still reviewing Santana's report.

On some levels, Santana's report served as a response to a document released in January by the L.A. 2020 Commission, which painted a dire picture of the city's economy and government services. That panel pointed to the city's growing pension obligations and warned the city is facing "continued economic decline."

Santana said the city had made major strides in addressing its economic woes over the last four years. But he also pushed for new measures to bolster the city's economic health. In the report, he recommended that elected officials:

-- Ask voters to support a new tax to pay for street and sidewalk repairs.
-- Expand the size of the emergency reserve.
-- Address major legal liabilities, such as lawsuits filed over the city's failure to fix sidewalks.
-- Conduct a new study on the size of the workforce at the Los Angeles Police Department.
-- Prepare a long-term plan on improving city technology.

Santana also predicted the city's pension obligations will peak in two years and then begin to decrease the following year. According to budget projections, payments by the city's general fund to the pension system will grow from $942 million this year to $1.125 billion in 2016. That figure will begin to taper off, reaching $1.059 billion in 2018.

Twitter: @DavidZahniser

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