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The Exodus: 2,400 City of L.A. Employees Prepare to Retire

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A portion of last week's L.A. City Council's discussion about ERIP (Early Retirement Incentive Program) | Recorded/Uploaded by Ron Kaye, who posted more videos of this meeting on his blog.

In about six months time, the city of Los Angeles is going to be leaner, but not necessarily meaner. Faced with a $400-million plus budget deficit this past summer, the Los Angeles City Council embarked on a budget-saving plan to let thousands retire early.

What does that mean? In a City Council meeting last week, the city's Personnel head Maggie Whelan compared the Early Retirement Incentive Program to the city looking like Swiss cheese with the holes previously filled by "sometimes the most people critical to our operation." City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana told the council in November that "we're losing much of the brain trust of the city overnight."

"Overnight" would be an exaggeration, but with about 350 or more people to be deleted off the city's payroll each month--400 are already gone--until a 2,400 in total are retired, it's a relatively fast transition, considering that a large number of positions won't be refilled by younger and cheaper workers.

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"We have time to develop the transition, but you don't take 2,400 out without impacts," explained Assistant City Administrative Officer Tom Coultas to LAist over the phone. Those impacts will be felt across the city, within the halls of City Hall and to the public who needs basic services. For example, the city will lose 161 people from the Department of Transportation and 40 from Planning. And this is only the beginning. "Next year will be worse," noted Coultas to council last week.

Despite te exodus of employees, the city still faces red numbers in the budget. The current deficit is at $98 million, but the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st, could see $405 million shortfall. By the 2013-2014 fiscal year, it's predicted Los Angeles will be $1 billion in the red.

That didn't stop the City Council from approving pay raises for Los Angeles Department of Water & Power employees last week (it includes an executive secretary earning $100,000). At the same time, scores of civilian employees are seeing forced furloughs and trimmed salaries and police and fire employees are facing cuts in overtime.