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Should the City Council Give Up Their Pet Project Funds to Help Save the City Budget Deficit?

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Photo by Alan Heitz via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

Photo by Alan Heitz via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week announced 1,000 layoffs, he ruffled some City Councilmembers' feathers when he added a request for some $40 million in off-budget pet project accounts. While he doesn't have power to force the Council to hand over the money, it was last week's press conference that pushed the issue into the media spotlight."Over the years some members have zealously guarded their district's share of the more flexible funds," reported the LA Times in an in-depth look at the special accounts. "Even though they are scouring other city departments for places to trim, council members are reluctant to part with resources that pay for neighborhood-friendly initiatives and, on occasion, the salaries of their own staff."

Certain accounts, like the Street Furniture Revenue Fund, cannot be transferred to the general budget or reserve fund. That's how they were set up in the City Charter, meaning it's law. However, Villaraigosa says the law can be changed. "Most of these funds were set up by ordinances and, as such, Council has the power to amend the ordinances so that the uncommitted funds may be transferred to the Reserve Fund," explained Villaraigosa spokesperson Sarah Hamilton to LAist.

City Controller Wendy Greuel "whole heartedly" agrees that not only the council should use transfer their special account money to aid the budget criss, but the Mayor, too. A $750,000 transfer of "unappropriated balance" in Villaraigosa's office was made last week.

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City Councilmembers often use the money for community projects, special events and sometimes even their own staffing. Bill Rosendahl is spending some of his special account money for homeless services, Eric Garcetti believes spending the money on economic development projects and drivers, such as Christmas lights in Atwater Village or a pedestrian alley in Hollywood, Tom LaBonge is adding a traffic signal to Hillhurst and Finley and Tony Cardenas is using it for sidewalk repair.

"In a budget year like this they should be used toward critical economic development projects or be used to help balance the budget," Garcetti said, agreeing with Villaraigosa that some of the money should be transferred over.

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