LA WATCHDOG--The Budget and Finance Committee met on Monday to receive input on the upcoming budget and the impact of the virus on City expenditures and its seven economically sensitive revenue streams. As a result of this uncertainty, the upcoming budget will be a placeholder that will need to be updated on a periodic basis to reflect the changing economic environment. (Photo above: Budget and Finance committee Chair, Councilman Paul Krekorian.)
But interestingly, the Committee and its members failed to acknowledge that the new labor agreements that were negotiated behind closed doors and that they approved blew a massive a $1.4 billion hole in the City’s budget over the next four years and required the City to raid its Reserve Fund. The impact of the virus compounds the problem.
Some of the members questioned the Mayor’s optimistic revenue projections, a valid concern.
The City Council must respond by June 1.
The following are my remarks to the Committee.
Prior to the virus, the City, despite record revenues, was projecting an annual deficit for the current fiscal year. The Structural Deficit was expected to exceed $1.4 billion over the next four years as a result of the new labor agreements [that were approved after the adoption of this year’s budget.].
The impact of the virus on the City’s [revenues and] budget only compounds the problem of balancing the budget.
The Budget Advocates developed ten recommendations in its White Paper to increase transparency into the City’s budget process that will, if implemented, begin the process of restoring Angelenos trust and confidence in City Hall.
The key recommendations include:
The establishment of an Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s budget and finances on a real time basis. [Also, a recommendation of the LA 2020 Commission]
All labor negotiations must be open and transparent and not result in any budget deficits, now and in the future.
The creation of a Pension Commission to review and analyze the City’s two pension plans and develop recommendations to eliminate the $15 billion unfunded liability. According to the City’s projections, the City’s contribution to the pension fund will consume about 25% of the General fund, up from the current level of 20%. [A recommendation of the LA 2020 Commission]
Develop a ten-year infrastructure plan that will begin to eliminate the $10 billion deferred maintenance budget.
The Four-Year General Fund budget Outlook should include placeholders for future raises.
Implement multiyear budgeting. [A recommendation of the LA 2020 Commission]
Other recommendations include the Mayor submitting his Proposed Budget on February 1st, benchmarking the efficiency of the City’s department and operations, developing a strong Reserve Fund, and developing solutions to eliminate the Structural Deficit.
To earn the vote of Angelenos on future tax increases, including the Split Roll, the City will need to earn the trust and confidence of Angelenos. Implementing these recommendations will begin that process.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)