The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (NCBAs) are 36 dedicated NC Stakeholders elected by more than 150 Budget Representatives who attended the Mayor’s Budget Day, November 17, 2012. Every year, NCBAs review, analyze and report on the City’s financial performance and plans. The NCBAs interact with the 95 Neighborhood Councils informing them and gathering their view and opinions on this year’s Budget performance and next year’s Budget Proposals. They have a face-to-face meeting with the Mayor and they report their recommendations to the City Council. It is one of the very few times when NC Representatives have a “seat at the table” and give a formal presentation to the City Council.

Every year, the NCBAs have become more and more sophisticated of the Budget and Budget Processes.

In recent years, the NCBAs have condensed their findings and recommendations into a White Paper. This year, the recommendations in the NCBAs’ White Paper will

(1) identify tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in “new” income,
(2) identify tens of millions of dollars in potential savings,
(3) describe the City’s ten to twenty billion dollars of Pension Debt and
(4) comment on the City’s efforts to raise more income.

I use the terms “identify,” “describe” and “comment” because, according to the City Charter, NCs are can only to “advise the Mayor & City Council on the services received in our communities.” The Mayor and City Council make the decisions. They are the ones responsible for the Proposals, Approvals and Implementation of the Budget. Now the NCBAs compare the Budget (which is a “dream” or a “proposal”) with the City’s Cash Flow (which is a “reality” or a “product”). Now we are looking for the change-over from Item-based Budgeting to Performance-based Budgeting.

Every year for the last 7-8 years, the City has faced at least a $ 200 million “Structural Deficit” (the difference between the total expected expenses and total expected income on July 1st).

Since the City’s income in each of the last 7-8 years has been the same (close to $ 4.3 billion), the City has had to lay-off employees and cut services delivered in order to balance the books by the following June 30th. You may have noticed how our potholes have not been filled, our sidewalks have not been repaired, our trees have not been trimmed and our sewers have not been repaired. The City has let all of this “infrastructure” decay because 80% of the Budget goes to Employee Salaries and Benefits and there is nothing left to buy asphalt, concrete and other building materials.

This year, the following issues are likely to be part of the NCBAs’ White Paper.

(1) A hastily prepared and presented $ 3 billion Bond Measure to repair our streets which will not be on the May ballot because it was opposed by the NCs and sent back to the City Council’s Committees by the City Council.

(2) A hastily prepared but mis-represented One-Half Per Cent Sales Tax increase which will be on the March 2013 ballot.

(3) The Controller’s, Commission on Revenue Enhancement’s (CORE’s), the NCBAs’ and Inspector Generals’ recommendation all request the City to replace its current, complex and inefficient collections efforts into a Centralized Collections System. This could result in:

(a) $ 50 to $ 150 million increased income from our LAFD-EMS (Ambulance) services
(b) up to $ 95 million increased income from our Parking Fines
(c) $ 10 million or more increased income from our Parking Users’ Taxes
(d) up to $ 10 million increased income from other uncollected obligations

(4) The City Council’s plan to reduce and eventually eliminate the $450 million-a-year Business Tax in an attempt to satisfy current business owners, attract new businesses and decrease the departures of existing businesses with the hope that the lost $450 million would be replaced by “new” jobs, increased Sales Taxes and other economic improvements.

(5) The City’s plans and preparation for renegotiating the Base Salaries and Benefits contracts with our 31,000 Employees, next year. Even the Mayor admits that, current, overly-generous Contracts with unsustainable Cost-of-Living Increases (COLAs) need to be changed.

(6) The Police Department is the largest source Court Judgments (millions of dollars) for officer-to-officer mental, sexual and physical harassment cases, excessive use of force cases, property damage cases and Worker’s Compensation cases.

For more information and to get involved in these issues, find and participate in your local Neighborhood Council.

by Daniel Wiseman Budget Advocate