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Pay hikes for city workers will add $1 billion to LA's yearly budget by 2028, report says

David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Earlier this year, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass negotiated a package of raises and increased benefits for tens of thousands of city workers — money aimed at addressing the rising cost of food, housing and other household expenses.

On Friday, the public got its first glimpse of the price tag for those employee contracts. City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, in a 40-page analysis, said the planned salary agreements with the city's civilian employee unions would add $316 million to the city budget in the next fiscal year, climbing to more than $1 billion annually by 2028.

The agreements — more than two dozen of them — are heading to the City Council for a final vote. The contracts already have been ratified by an assortment of unions representing clerks, custodians, engineers, gardeners, librarians, mechanics and many other city workers.

For most of those employees, the contracts will cover a period that includes not just the 2026 mayoral election, when Bass is expected to seek a second 4-year term, but also the staging of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028. Over that five-year time frame, the contracts are expected to add $3.5 billion in new employee costs, Szabo said.

The budget for the city's current fiscal year is about $13 billion.

Council President Paul Krekorian, who sits with Bass on the five-member bargaining committee, said the agreements will help the city retain existing workers and recruit new ones. At the same time, he said it would be a challenge to pay workers "what they deserve" while also delivering the exact same level of services.

 

"I don't think serious cuts in services will be necessary," Krekorian said. "But I don't want to get out in front of the budget process. Every budget process ... is filled with trade-offs."

Bass did not immediately comment on Szabo's report. In recent months, her team has defended the proposed pay increases, saying they will help city agencies hold on to workers during a serious labor shortage.

"Paying city workers fairly so they can make a living wage is vital to ensure city services continue to be provided at the increased quality and cadence that we have executed over the past year," Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said last month.

Nevertheless, one longtime City Hall watcher voiced alarm at the numbers. Jack Humphreville, who volunteers with the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, said he believes the projected increase in employee costs will mean "just more red ink" in the years to come.

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