By Councilman Bob Blumenfield
In just a few months, the City’s Budget, Finance and Innovation Committee will publicly review, alter and vote on our Mayor’s draft budget- a document that is being crafted right now.
There have been some strong headlines recently painting LA’s financial future from a doom and gloom perspective, so as chair of this committee, I wanted to share some thoughts and perspectives as we go into this critical time.
We will have to solve for a large budget hole – there is no sugarcoating this. There are many reasons for this, including pending raises for large swaths of city workers (including a major salary increase for LAPD approved last year) and the reality that large pots of funding that states and cities received during the COVID crisis are no longer available.
The city operates on a balanced budget system, meaning that every year we write a budget unique to that specific year and have to back up that number with tax revenues. The City Administrative Officer (CAO) is in charge of making sure these equations add up and draws the short straw of having to unveil bad, and sometimes good, news to council offices.
Our CAO also leads on negotiating union contracts. This is relevant because the City just struck a pending deal with the coalition that represents city workers that includes seven raises over the next half decade and that will add up to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. While this was a needed step to avoid a large labor dispute, and the fact that our city workers must be able to afford to live within the city they work, it will have a dramatic impact on our fiscal future. So what does this mean?
One of the big pushes the City has made over the past few years was to get vacant positions filled as fast as possible. From pothole fillers, to tree trimmers, to clerks who make sure local businesses who contract with the city get paid- the city had thousands of vacancies. Now with this pending labor deal- we will not be able to hire as intended. We avert layoffs so residents can expect the same level of services. Having said that, it means that in a lot of cases, services will not get better, faster and more efficient. You can’t simply create efficiencies to get your way out of a fiscal crisis, but you can use this as an opportunity to reform this City in a positive way and restructure in a more streamlined manner. This is one of the things we will have to do and we’ve asked our CAO to put together options to help make this happen.
There are still many unknowns, but I am working with the Mayor, CAO and general managers to ensure that core services are impacted as little as possible and better ways of delivering those services are implemented. As always, if you have any questions or concerns for me, please do not hesitate to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (818) 774-4330.