Wednesday, October 24, 2001
Supervisors Defer Spending $137 Million in Wake of Terrorist Attacks
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The county Board of Supervisors decided yesterday it will wait to act on a proposed $137 million in county budget increases until December when both the state and county will have a better idea of how the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have affected the economy.
County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen told the board the attacks have “dramatically changed the economic outlook of both the state and county” and county officials needed to take that into account in making budget decisions.
Janssen warned supervisors that the state’s budget policies will significantly impact the county’s budget and that it would be wise to wait until the state budget cuts can be assessed before spending any more county money.
Gov. Gray Davis recently instructed all state departments and agencies to present 15 percent budget cuts in anticipation of continued tough economic times in the state.
Janssen noted that a significant decrease in tourism, especially international tourists, has been particularly harmful to the local economy and it is difficult to judge now the economic impacts of the terrorist attacks and recent anthrax concerns.
“The further we can get away from Sept. 11, the more information we can get,” Janssen said.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky agreed with Janssen, saying that while the economy was already in a downward spiral prior to the attacks, there are now new concerns to consider.
“The economy was already slowing down, but after Sept. 11, in many respects, it came to a grinding halt,” Yaroslavsky said. “The only responsible course right now is to pause before making any kind of expenditures.”
Yaroslavsky pointed the finger at Sheriff Lee Baca and his overspending his budget by $30 million.
“I haven’t forgotten about that,” Yaroslavsky said. “We need to get control over that budget.”
The Sheriff’s Department recently submitted a two-year plan to the county that would pay back the amount overspent by the department.
But board Mayor Michael Antonovich disagreed, saying “there are some imminent concerns that need to be included.”
Antonovich argued the board needs to approve a budget which would include things that would make the county safer.
“This budget pales in providing for safe communities, safe streets and safe schools,” Antonovich said.
The amount deferred by the board includes $16.6 million requested by Baca to fully reopen understaffed sheriff’s stations and hiring a civilian workforce to aid department detectives.
In the early 1990s, the Sheriff’s Department was forced to close several stations after taking $197 million in cuts, but when Baca took office in 1998 he resolved to reopen them.
Some of those stations, in Malibu, Altadena, San Dimas, and Pico Rivera and have since reopened with limited staffing, but rely heavily on adjacent stations for support, something that Chief Marvin J. Dixon of the Sheriff’s Department said is not adequate to provide service to the community.
The additional funding request is to help bring staffing back up to acceptable levels, Dixon said.
The board also held off on giving Baca another $3.1 million to hire 68 civilian technicians to help ease the workload of department’s detectives.
Dixon said at any given time each detective is dealing with 35 cases which has resulted in a huge backlog within the department.
“There is only so much time in a day and only so much time in a week,” Dixon said.
The additional civilian technicians would be able to do follow-up or research while the detectives could focus on the more technical aspects of the cases, Dixon said.
The board also discussed approving a $6.8 million county Security Action Plan as a result of the terrorist attacks in closed session yesterday. The board’s decision was not available at press time.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company