As we all know from managing our personal and household finances, balancing budgets in the middle of a stubborn recession is a tough task. Today, my colleagues on the Los Angeles City Council and I made some choices and approved a sane and sensible budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
This year, we continued to tighten our belts and maintained or increased core municipal services while downsizing the size of City government and implementing long-term fiscal reforms. If signed by the mayor, this budget will increase tree trimming, expand library hours, and provide for resurfacing 800 miles of city streets, filling 350,000 potholes, and repairing 1,500 sidewalk access ramps.
The council’s budget maintains the current number of police officers and provides for new police cars, motorcycles, and firearms. It trims the City workforce to its smallest size since Tom Bradley was mayor – but spares 209 city employees from threatened layoffs, saving crucial services we all use.
Our budget increases funding for summer youth jobs, restores money for cleaning our parks and public restrooms, creates a proactive code enforcement unit in the Planning Department, and provides utility bill subsidies for an additional 11,400 elderly and disabled residents. We did all this, in part, by cutting the budgets of the mayor and council for the fourth consecutive year as well as recognizing additional property tax revenue projections from L.A. County.
I am particularly grateful that I was able to restore some key expenses to this budget: the operation and maintenance of the Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Community Center in Venice; the CLASS Parks program at Oakwood Recreation Center; and public access programming on Channel 36. I will also continue to fight to restore Engine 69 in Pacific Palisades.
Our budget recognizes that we need structural reform. It implements the first phase of a performance-based budgeting system and creates something I have been encouraging for years — a different pension tier for new hires, which will help the City control its costs and rein in the structural deficit.
This year’s budget is the result of strong partnerships with neighborhood council budget advocates and city employees. For the first time, the City Council treated labor as genuine partners, literally inviting representatives of city employee unions to the table to discuss proposals to cut expenses and maintain services. We incorporated many of their ideas, and others will serve as a blueprint for discussions in the coming months.
Over the next few months, we will continue to implement structural reforms, and find other ways to make our City government leaner, smarter, and more efficient. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.