LA WATCHDOG - In November, almost two-thirds (65%) of the City’s voters rejected Measure SP, a parcel tax sponsored by the City Council and the Mayor designed to raise $227 million a year to fund the operations of the Department of Recreation and Parks.
Ironically, this measure required approval of two-third of the voters.
This ordinance will raise $6.8 billion over the next thirty years to fund parks, recreational centers, pools, playgrounds, waterways, beaches, green spaces, open spaces, childcare and other facilities. However, there were no detailed plans, meaning this tax was essentially a blank check for the members of the City Council and the Mayor to fund their pet projects. These included the Zoo and revitalization of the Los Angeles River, both of which are not managed by the department.
Over the last twelve years, Rec & Parks has been underfunded because of the City’s “full cost recovery” program. This program was implemented in 2010 to help erase a portion of the city’s budget deficit caused by ever increasing compensation demanded by the public sector unions that exceeded the growth in revenues, even in the best of times.
The result: 40%, or $100 million, of the Department’s charter allocated revenue of $250 million a year is kicked back to the City. This program does not apply to any City departments other than the charter funded Library. But the Library’s funding was restored by the passage of Measure L in 2011.
These budget shortfalls that have totaled $850 million over the last twelve years have resulted in the cutback of numerous programs for less fortunate Angelenos and the failure to maintain our parks and their bathrooms.
Since the implementation of the “full cost recovery” program, the Mayor, selected members of the City Council, and the City Administrative Officer have told us that they would restore the Department’s funding once revenues recovered. But this just another big fat lie because revenues have increased by over $3 billion in the last ten years.
Rather than having the voters authorize a new tax, the City Council can easily pass an ordinance that phases out the “full cost recovery” program over the next four years. This would require an increase of only $25 million a year, representing less than one-third of 1% of the $7.5 billion General Fund budget. All it takes is political courage that will result in significant benefits to many Angelenos who rely on our parks and its many programs to improve the quality of their lives.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)