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County trims $565M with proposed budget

Officials still expecting deficit of $75.8 million

Posted: April 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 


Los Angeles County officials Tuesday unveiled a proposal for a $23.8 billion budget — a reduction of $565 million compared to last year’s budget — as the county continues to tighten its belt in the aftermath of the recession.

The county is projecting slow growth for the 2012-2013 fiscal year,  with increases in county sales tax to near pre-recession levels and a gradual decrease in unemployment.

But a struggling housing market is still an issue, according to a letter from the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, which proposed the spending plan.

The county assessor is forecasting an increase in housing value assessments, but the forecast is still preliminary and will be updated next month, according to the letter.

Although the county is trimming its budget this year, officials are still expecting a budget gap of $75.8 million, about half of last year’s budget gap of $185.2 million. The largest budget gap in recent years was a $491.6 million deficit in 2010-11.

Los Angeles County has succeeded at reducing its previous budget gaps by reducing department expenses, eliminating salary increases, freezing hiring, launching efficiency initiatives, using one-time funding from county reserves and reducing the county’s capital program, according to the CEO.

“The unions agreed to no raises for the fourth year in a row, which has significantly held down costs,” Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

The county is projecting a $24.4 million drop in the cost of welfare due to declining cases. As unemployment eased, cases decreased from 112,487 in December 2011 to 106,186 in January 2012.

Other big changes in the budget include a $128.4 million reduction for the departments of Mental Health and Children and Family Services as the state transfers mental health services for special education students from counties to school districts.

The Sheriff’s Department will receive $3.4 million in grants for 25 positions and $13.4 million for 109 positions for services to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Although the Sheriff’s Department will receive slight increases in staffing, Antonovich said he was concerned about the effect of the state’s “realignment” of prisoners from state prisons to county jails.

“The CEO is estimating that public-safety realignment will create a deficit of approximately $6 million by the end of this fiscal year alone,” Antonovich said.

“Meanwhile, violent crimes have increased 0.82 percent and serious property crimes reported have increase by 6.09 percent in sheriff’s patrol areas countywide for the first quarter of 2012 as compared to the same time frame last year.”

The county will hold public hearings on the proposed budget May 16, with deliberations expected to begin June 18.

More information on the budget can be found at http://ceo.lacounty.gov/budget11-12.htm.

kjonas@the-signal.com
661-287-5517

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