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Proposed county budget shrinks

Funding for new fire stations would be maintained

Posted: April 20, 2009 10:51 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2009 9:00 a.m.
 
A proposed Los Angeles County 2009-2010 budget that emphasizes preservation of critical county programs and reduction of costs without the layoff of employees was announced Monday by the county's Chief Executive Officer.

"I've never seen all three levels of the economy, from the federal to state and local, deteriorate at the same time," said William T. Fujioka said, noting that the 2009-2010 proposed budget is shaped largely by the impact of the deep recession the country and county are enduring.

The proposed $22.799 billion budget is $415 million less than the current budget and calls for 1,684 fewer budgeted positions than the current 102,458.

Fujioka estimated a $300.4 million gap in local revenues. He proposed closing that budget gap with department budget curtailments, bridging funding from county reserves saved over the past several years and federal stimulus funding.

"We will be maintaining core services, but we do have some reductions in some costs associated with our programs," Fujioka said.

"Classic structural deficit in the budget is when expenditures exceed your revenues. Incoming revenues are insufficient to support outgoing expenditures."

To help deal with structural imbalance, vacant positions in more than 10 departments are proposed for elimination.

Fujioka said most of those vacant positions have been on a department's books for at least three years unfilled.

The net position loss for larger departments include: Public Social Services, 899; Health Services, 165; Public Health 141; Parks and Recreation, 119; Child Support Services, 104; Registrar-Recorder/County Clark, 80; District Attorney, 70; Internal Services, 52; Public Library 51; Office of Public Safety, 50; and Sheriff, 9, according to information provided by the county.

"We worked with every single department to come up with not only the number, but to identify positions that would not affect the services or departments if taken away," Fujioka said.

Critical to the budget was the idea of preserving county programs while curtailing costs, Fujioka said.

"County services and programs impact every single person living in the county of Los Angeles," Fujioka said as he addressed the ways in which the budget relates to the general public. "Those services are almost invisible to a lot of people until you need them."

While funding for capital projects is significantly decreased in the county's proposed budget, a $1.4 billion allocation remains intact for high-priority projects, one of which includes new fire stations in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Some departments are proposed for consolidation. For example, The Commission on Aging is recommended for consolidation under the Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council - a merger that would result in a savings of about $700,000.

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said the supervisor is most concerned about the cuts to the district attorney's office and the sheriff's department, "as well as cuts to parks and libraries, but public safety is the supervisor's number one priority."

The proposed budget continues to be a work in progress, especially as the state budget situation becomes clearer, Fujioka said.

Expected additional reductions from the state, the decline in home values, the temporary nature of federal funding and the use of one-time bridge funding require the county to ensure it is not spending beyond its means, Fujioka said in a county press release.

Today the county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider 2009-10 proposed County budget and set May 13 for a public hearing on the budget.

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