LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday that he will call for layoffs of city workers as part of his budget next month, but wouldn’t specify how many would jobs would be slashed.
“We’re going to lay off a large number of employees. I’m not going to say how many,” Villaraigosa said during a speech to the City Administrative Officer Investors Conference at the Grammy Museum.
The city’s employee negotiating committee, which includes Villaraigosa and several City Council members, recently asked thousands of city workers to put off raises until the city’s budget improves.
In recent years, the city has laid off more than 200 city employees. Since 2008, another 4,900 workers retired early or were transferred to departments that manage their own budgets.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said this week the city’s budget deficit for the next fiscal year is close to $220 million. The city’s general fund budget, which pays for basic services, for the 2011-2012 fiscal year is $4.4 billion. It authorized the employment of 22,103 employees.
“It is just unconscionable,” said Cheryl Parisi, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 36, which represents about 9,000 civilian city workers.
City employees have given up nearly $847 million in wage and benefit concessions in recent years, Parisi said, “so we’re trying to figure out where have they spent our sacrifice. Why has the sacrifice of city workers not been managed in a responsible way? This is such a failure of leadership.”
Parisi urged Villaraigosa to enact the recommendations of the Commission on Revenue Efficiency before laying off city workers. The commission issued a list of recommendations Friday it said would generate or save more than $100 million.
The proposed budget, which is scheduled to be released April 20, also will call for the city to lease its parking garages, Villaraigosa told the audience. City Council members previously rejected plans to privatize city parking lots.
Villaraigosa said he will push to raise the retirement age for city workers to 67, vowing to put the issue before voters if approval of the City Council does not occur.
City Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Paul Krekorian acknowledged that city unions have made significant concessions in recent years.
“The idea that some out there say that unions haven’t done their part, that’s just clearly nonsense. They’ve had considerable pain,” Krekorian said. “But the reality we have to face is where our projected revenues are right now and what that allows us to spend.
“There’s going to have to be significant real reductions in employment costs as well as other solutions.”
Krekorian, who became chairman of the budget committee in January, said layoffs would certainly lead to reduced city services.
“I’m deeply concerned,” Krekorian said. “I don’t think there’s any question that if we make further reductions in our workforce, the ability of the city to provide even a basic level of services is going to be severely constrained.”
The Budget and Finance Committee is expected to hold extensive hearings to discuss the proposed budget after it is released in April.
The city charter requires the City Council to amend or approve the budget by June 1.
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