Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Your Public Servants at Work: Government Shutdown Looms in Compton

We've been following the ongoing financial troubles of the city of Compton for a few weeks now. Facing a $25 million budget hole and having essentially no reserves, the City Council has been weighing a plan to cut some 80 vacant positions and lay off half of the workforce. In late June, the Council voted against this plan after Compton's public employee unions came through with a last-minute proposal to fix the budget by offering workers incentives for early retirement, in addition to accepting furloughs and fewer vacation days. Unfortunately, the LA Times reports that the city's financial picture remains as murky as ever, and a government shutdown is becoming a real possibility, as the City Council rejected another proposed budget last night.

It's a little tough to piece together exactly what's going on, but the budget stalemate is covered in the fingerprints of union politics: according to the Times, the city's public employees are threatening legal action if the layoffs go forward, claiming that Compton failed to follow appropriate procedures for identifying positions for layoff and notifying workers. As such, the City Council was apparently hoping to see a revised budget plan from City Manager Willie Norfleet that incorporated the unions' ideas and avoided layoffs. Yet Norfleet failed to produce a revised budget document, most likely because the math simply doesn't work. He claims to have worked in some of their ideas and preserved six firefighter jobs, but the lack of an actual document created a transparency problem.

According to City Treasurer Douglas Sanders, without a new budget in place, Compton will be unable to make its payroll on July 21. According to Norfleet, this could spell indefinite furloughs for all non-essential personnel; in other words, a government shutdown. Stay tuned.

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