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Compton threatened with shutdown as budget is rejected a 2nd time

Officials are threatening a government shutdown in Compton as the city remains without a budget two weeks into the new fiscal year.

The City Council has deadlocked over a proposal that would lay off 91 employees, including some department heads, in an attempt to balance the budget.

For a second time, the council voted down the proposed budget 3-2 Tuesday night. City Treasurer Douglas Sanders warned that the city will be unable to issue paychecks July 21, the next payroll date, because there are no funds appropriated for the new fiscal year.

That could mean a scenario in which the city furloughs all but public safety and essential employees until a budget agreement is reached, City Manager Willie Norfleet said.

Union representatives pointed to a resolution passed in 2009 to give the council power to authorize paying city expenses until a budget was in place, but City Atty. Craig Cornwell said the charter supercedes the resolution.

The fiscal plight came to light earlier this year with the release of an independent audit report that questioned Compton's continued solvency and with revelations the city was facing a budget deficit of as much as $25 million.

A coalition of unions representing city employees has brought its own proposal forward that they say would close the gap through a combination of early retirement incentives and concessions, including furloughs and foregone vacation days.

The council members who voted against the proposed budget cited a lack of transparency in the process and the city manager's failure to bring forward an alternative proposal that would incorporate the unions' proposals and avoid layoffs.

Norfleet said Tuesday he had taken some of the union's proposals into account and had restored six firefighter positions, but the city did not issue a new proposed budget document that incorporated the changes.

Newly installed Councilwoman Janna Zurita, who cast the deciding vote against the budget, said, "I came here tonight hoping I was going to be able to support this budget, but I have too many concerns and questions."

On the other side, Mayor Eric Perrodin, who opposed the early retirement proposal, faulted the council for failing to pass a budget by June 30 as required by the city's charter and for putting the city's ability to continue operating in jeopardy.

"We're not the United States where we can print our own money," Perrodin said. "Vendors are not going to be paid, employees are not going to be paid, and it's going to start jeopardizing the functions of the city."

Meanwhile, unions are threatening legal action if the layoffs take place, saying the city failed to follow required procedures in targeting positions for layoff and in notifying employees whose jobs are on the line.

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-- Abby Sewell

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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