Less than six months into its fiscal year, the city of Los Angeles faces a $72-million budget shortfall, raising the prospect of new cuts in services in coming weeks, according to a report released Friday.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, budget advisor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council, issued an interim financial status report calling for nearly two dozen city agencies to absorb a combined $21 million in reductions.
Santana warned that the shortfall could grow once city officials calculate the cost of cleanup in the wake of this week’s ferocious windstorms and the two-month encampment outside City Hall by Occupy L.A.
“These are unforeseen problems that we have to pay for one way or the other,” Santana said in an interview. “The timing was not helpful.”
Santana called for reductions of $4 million to the Los Angeles Police Department, $1.7 million to the city attorney’s office and $1.3 million to the Bureau of Street Services, which is charged with maintaining the city’s 6,500-mile network of roads and highways. He also said he needs four more weeks to find an additional $20 million in potential cuts for this year’s budget, which covers the 12-month period ending June 30.
William Carter, chief deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, voiced dismay about Santana’s report, saying his boss had been trying to set up enough money in his department’s budget to reduce the number of furlough days imposed on his office’s staff.
Right now, most of Trutanich’s employees are taking 36 unpaid days off per year, Carter said.
“Obviously, you can’t operate a prosecution and litigation office with part-time lawyers, and certainly not when our caseloads have stayed the same and in some cases, increased,” he said.
Santana said that with a shortfall expected to exceed $200 million for the fiscal year starting July 1, officials are “running out of options” for balancing the budget.
In his report, Santana said the state’s ongoing financial crisis could complicate the city’s effort to puts its budget back in balance next year, taking away money for libraries and other services. He also warned that the city could take another financial hit if a court ruling eliminates the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency in coming weeks.
Under state law, if the redevelopment agency is dissolved, the city must find places for its 200 remaining employees, Santana said.
State lawmakers are “not going to give us the money, and yet we’re required to keep” the 200 remaining employees, he said.