County looks to reduce costs

Los Angeles County officials who have maintained for years that they have a fat-free budget are now hurrying to put into place measures for reductions to meet the 2009-10 spending program.

The supervisors on Tuesday, June 9 approved a motion by Mike Antonovich to continue efforts to cut some of the 95 committees and commissions set up over the years.

Unlike the case for the state, compensation for the members is limited, but costs of staff supervision and support remain.

Antonovich urged his colleagues to adopt the recommendations made by Pasadena-based Arroyo Group to do away with 10 such units because of “long-term inactivity.”

Among these groups are the License Appeal Board, the Health Facilities Authority, Interdepartmental Coordination Group, the Solid Waste Authority and the Traffic Reduction and Free Flow Committee. The remaining 85 commissions will be studied for more possible changes before a second round of budget work begins in September.

The county is currently working on a $22.8 billion budget for the coming year. The figure is $415 million less than the current year, but more than $4 billion increase since 2005-06.

County executive officer William Fujioka said the budget eliminates some 1,800 jobs, most of them currently vacant; but the county roster remains at 100,000 plus.

Most county departments are taking cuts of 5% or more, and the budget is dipping into reserves to compensate for revenue losses considered to be short term.

The county is depending on federal stimulus money of greater than half a billion dollars, though the amount and terms of the funding remain to be established. The budget is also suffering from a 3% drop in property taxes and losses in sales tax and interest earnings.

The county health department still has a $257.3 million deficit to address, and state cuts could shift more welfare costs to the county, which remains the provider of last resort.

The county's precarious financial state was underlined when the treasurer withdrew a $1.1 billion short-term note offering because of concerns by municipal market investors over California's future.

The issues, tax and revenue anticipation notes, are normally a routine offering this time of year, but 2009 is clearly not a routine year.


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