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L.A. council cuts $18 million, puts off new furloughs

January 14, 2011 |  4:19 pm

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to cut more than $18 million from this year's budget but postponed a decision on the two most controversial proposals -– new furloughs and a major reduction in graffiti removal services.

The council refused to back a $1.8-million cut to the Department of Recreation and Parks, which was expected to lead to more unpaid days off for its employees. But the council agreed to cut $1 million from the budgets for its own offices and that of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Friday's vote also included a $1-million reduction to the office of City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city's top budget official, said he would come back with a report explaining what services would be reduced if the city moved ahead with his latest budget-cutting plan -– forcing certain civilian workers to take another 10 unpaid days off before June 30. Some are already required to take 26 days this year.

Villaraigosa and the council members oppose that plan.

Additional furlough days have been criticized by the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents more than 20,000 civilian city workers.

Julie Butcher, a leader of that coalition, said the group’s members made a "good-faith" effort to address the crisis by voting to increase their health insurance co-payments by $5 for doctors’ visits and by $50 for emergency room visits.

That move, Santana said, would save the general fund, which provides basic services, as much as $8 million per year starting July 1.

The council is trying to close most of this year's budget shortfall by awarding a private company a 50-year lease for nine public parking garages. With less than six month remaining in the fiscal year, that deal still has not been completed.

Santana told the council that he is nervous about the city's ability to borrow money this summer to maintain its cash flow. Even in good years, the city typically issues bonds that are paid off with tax revenue that arrives later in the year.

If the city doesn't make more cuts, he said, it would need to tap its reserve fund before June 30 -– a move that would make it harder to borrow that money.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall