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LA City Council Approves Plan To Meet $675M Shortfall, Shrinks Possible LAPD Layoffs By More Than Half

Los Angeles City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn during a Dec. 8, 2020 City Council meeting. L.A. City Council video screenshot
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Last week, city analysts recommended an array of belt-tightening moves to help fill a $675 million crater in the budget for the fiscal year that started July 1. The 144-page Financial Status Report included a mandate to cut 3% from every city department’s budget, which would require many program cuts and some layoffs: among them, nearly 1,000 LAPD officers and more than 700 civilian law enforcement staff.

After Monday's marathon hashing-out in the Budget and Finance Committee, the full council on Tuesday opted to pass most of the City Administrative Officer’s cost-saving recommendations — with a few changes, including shrinking the number of possible LAPD layoffs by more than half, to 355 officers and 273 civilian jobs. Layoffs are also possible in the Departments of Animal Welfare, the Bureau of Engineering and the City Attorney’s Office.

Eliminating any city jobs would be a bitter pill, CAO Rich Llewellyn said, but “we do not see another way to cover the current shortfall.”

The vote opens the door for layoffs while the city tries other mitigation strategies, such as moving people to unfilled specially-funded positions, in-sourcing some work that’s currently contracted out, and hardening the hiring freeze.

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Departments also have one week to submit alternative plans to save worker positions — the Bureau of Engineering submitted one shortly before the meeting.

A final list of layoffs will have to be approved by the city council.

During online public comment, callers evoked LAPD officers using batons against protesters outside the Mayor’s residence on Sunday to argue the department does not deserve special protection from budget cuts.

“[LAPD officers] brutalize people … and they are never held accountable,” said Astrid Cota with Sunrise L.A. and the People’s City Council.

Maebe A. Girl, a member of the Silverlake Neighborhood Council, decried cuts in the CAO’s report that would stop the expansion of HIV prevention services to homeless people and other high-risk groups.

“We should not be making these kinds of cuts that impact vulnerable populations,” Girl said. She urged council members to tap law enforcement funds to bridge the city’s budget gap, instead of cutting health and social services programs. “You are the most powerful city council in the United States. Please do something.”

With the approval of the CAO’s recommendations, the city will take some unprecedented steps:

  • Using roughly $260 million in general fund reserves, wiping out the budget stabilization fund and contingency reserve, spending rainy-day funds down to the lowest level allowed in the city charter.

  • Utilizing debt to pay for day-to-day expenses; borrowing money that was meant for big capital improvement projects like an overhaul of the zoo and solar panels at municipal buildings, which Budget Committee chair Paul Krekorian likened to “putting the mortgage payment on a credit card.”

City negotiators are also in talks with public employee unions, possibly setting the stage for more furloughs or to defer pay raises scheduled to take effect in January.
The union representing LAPD officers has so far declined to join similar discussions.

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