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LA'S BUDGET CRISIS - The Mayor and his staff have developed a very good Budget Survey that addresses the issues and choices concerning next year’s budget deficit that is estimated by the City Administrative Officer to be in the range of $200 million to $250 million.

The survey questions involve Budget Priorities, Potential Service Reductions, a Sustainable Workforce, Revenue Opportunities, Public Private Partnerships, and Improved Financial Management Tools. There is also the opportunity to provide ample comment.

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LA WATCHDOG - Of the 22 commissioners for the Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles World Airports, and Public Works, 50% are women and 60% are non white.  Over 40% are lawyers.  About two thirds work for governmental or non profit organizations. Of the one third of the commissioners that work in the for profit sector, over 60% are lawyers.

These four City Departments have budgets of over $5 billion and are responsible for about 20,000 positions / employees, about 40% of the City’s work force.

However, of particular note, none of the commissioners have specific industry expertise or management experience in large complex organizations.

Why? As one elected official commented, “Rest assured, with maybe one exception, the Mayor’s recent appointments of politically pliant “Know Nothings” is not by accident!”

No wonder the City is broke!

 

Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: lajack@gmail.com ) –cw

 

 

Volume 7, Issue 97

November 27, 2009

LA WATCHDOG - IF the proposed $254 million Transfer Fee from the Power System of the Department of Water and Power to the City’s General Fund is not permitted pursuant to the recently passed Proposition 26 (Super Majority Vote Required to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act), then the City’s projected deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 will soar to $712 million, a 55% increase over the current projection of $458 million.  (Link)

The less than transparent Transfer Fee, equal to 8% of the Power System’s prior year retail revenues, is one of the largest sources of cash for the City’s General Fund, representing 5.8% of the $4.38 billion of General Receipts. The Transfer Fee is typically paid in four installments, beginning in March when about 60% is put on the Money Train to City Hall.

However, the Transfer Fee may be illegal based on the provisions of Proposition 26 which was passed by 53% of the voters in November 2010.  Prop 26 requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to pass fees that are not related to the actual costs of the services provided.

As a result, on February 4, the City of Redding was sued in Superior Court to prevent the Redding Electric Utility, a city department like DWP, from imposing a “Payment In-Lieu of Taxes” of almost $6 million on the Ratepayers. 

LA’s General Fund loss of the $254 million Transfer Fee from the DWP Power System will throw a monkey wrench into the current budget negotiations. 

As it is, the City is having a difficult time closing the projected $458 million General Fund Deficit, relying on yet to be negotiated savings from the most sacred of all cows, the Police Department and its very police protective league, the Fire Department and its obstreperous union, and the unionized Civilian Workforce.  There are also over $100 million of “Reductions and Efficiencies” which need to be implemented.

There are also a few more gimmicks that involve dumping unfunded mandates on Special Revenue departments and issuing commercial paper to pay off existing Convention Center debt and to fund pension fund payments related to the fiscally irresponsible Early Retirement Inventive Plan that added over $200 million to the unfunded pension liability of the 60% funded Los Angeles City Employee Retirement System. 

This is the equivalent of paying your second or third mortgage with a credit card that has a low teaser rate.

And remember, the current budget does not provide for the adequate repair and maintenance of our infrastructure (such as our lunar crater streets, sidewalks, and parks) or the proper funding of the $11.7 billion unfunded pension liability, including about $6 billion of the 68% funded Fire and Police Pension Plans. 

And these “devastating” reductions do not even address the projected deficit of $281 million for the following fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. 

Needless to say, The Mayor Who Broke LA will go into high gear, denouncing Prop 26 and saying it does not apply to the 8% Transfer Fee.  But that will be for the courts to decide. 

In the meantime, the municipal bond investment community, including the influential credit rating agencies, will be making their own judgments on the merits of the City’s June offering of Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes that are required to fund the City’s operations for the first half of the fiscal year. 

But who would buy the very risky Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes?

Individual retail investors who are focused on the preservation of capital would pass because of the high level of risk.

The most likely buyers would be large mutual funds who are stretching for yield. But these are the same mutual funds that conservative investors buy. But who are these mutual funds that are rolling the dice with investor money?  More than likely the large mutual fund complexes and banks such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Wells Fargo, T Rowe Price, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Schwab, Northern Trust, and a host of other gambling investment funds.

But even if the yield hogs invested in this highly speculative junk paper, they would focus on the shorter maturities that mature within seven months, not like the current issue that has maturities of over $600 million in May and June.

To insure a successful offering of Notes that will provide the cash to fund the City’s operations, the City needs to address the $712 million budget deficit in a manner that is acceptable to the investment community.  And the City needs to brace itself for very high interest rates.  Otherwise, the City will run out of cash.

One alternative is for the City to ask the voters to approve the 8% Transfer Fee.  But what is the likelihood that voters would approve such a tax or a fee given the electorate’s lack of trust and confidence in the Mayor, City Hall, and the campaign funding leadership of City’s unions?

At the same time, DWP, which has its own set of trust issues, is asking for another significant increase in our water and power base rates.

But if our Elected Elite placed the 8% Transfer Fee on the ballot, what would the Citizens of Los Angeles demand in return?

The City must address the need for true structural reform, including the development and implementation of a long term solvency plan that addresses the repair of our infrastructure; true pension reform as suggested by The Little Hoover Commission; work place reform that focuses on the efficient delivery of core services and the rationalization of the compensation, benefit, and seniority arrangements; and a complete reform of the collective bargaining process.

As an incentive to Ratepayers, the Transfer Fee also needs to be restructured whereby the transfer is equal to 5% of the Power System’s revenues, provided that it is not lower than the current level of $254 million, adjusted for inflation. 

The City must also establish a Citizens Advocate, consisting of non political independent grownups, which has the right to review and oversee the operations and finances of the City and its related entities, not dissimilar to the New York City’s Emergency Financial Control Board that was established in 1975 when the Big Apple almost tanked. 

While the loss of the $254 million Transfer Fee has draconian implications, it will force our Mayor Villaraigosa, Controller Wendy Greuel, City Council President Eric Garcetti and the rest of our Elected Elite to address its structural deficit and make the necessary and reasonable financial and work place reforms that will be demanded by the electorate. 

And who knows, the inability of DWP to put the Transfer Fee on the Money Train to City Hall may offset the proposed increase in our electricity rates. 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com . He can be reached at:    lajack@gmail.com)             -cw





CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 38
Pub: May 13, 2011


LA’S BUDGET CRISIS - The Mayor wants your thoughts on how to close next year’s budget deficit that is expected to be over $200 million in the red.

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LA WATCHDOG - Throughout the recent discussions regarding the Department of Water and Power and the Energy Cost Adjustment Factor, there have been few if any concrete discussions about the impact on electric rates over the next ten years, especially as it relates to the Mayor’s 2020 goals of No Coal and 40% Renewables.

Needless to say, the lack of a Strategic Plan and an Integrated Resource Plan makes it very difficult to predict the costs and the impact on rates.

However, over the next decade, it would not be surprising if DWP had capital expenditures in excess of $10 billion.  This in itself will have a dramatic impact on rates.  

And this is one of the primary reasons for Transparency recommended in the Independent Fiscal Review by PA Consulting.  The existing and future programs for Alternative Energy, Demand Supply Management, and Energy Efficiency would be separated from the current Energy Cost Adjustment Factor and would be subject to the automatic review and approval of the City Council, just like Base Rates Increases that were approved in April 2008.

With Transparency, Ratepayers would have a much better understanding of why their rates were increasing as compared to the current black box methodology.

But how much will rates increase over the next decade? To date, the vocal and politically influential environmental community, along with the Mayor and his blackmailing minions, Carr, Carson and Szabo (none of whom know an amp from an ohm), have also been silent as to the costs and impact on residential and commercial Ratepayers.

However, when one environmental hot shot was asked if an increase of 25% a year for the next decade was reasonable, the response was: “25% a year is not unreasonable.”

If rates increased at 25% a year for the next ten years, our rates would increase over nine times, from 12.2¢ to 113.6¢ per kilowatt-hour.

No wonder the Mayor and the environmental community do not want Transparency.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is  the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com He can be reached at lajack@gmail.com)  -cw





CityWatch
Vol 8 Issue 26
Pub: Apr 2, 2010

 

CITY HALL MEMO: GARAGE SALE IS ON AGAIN? - In February, the City Council voted unanimously to kill the fiscally irresponsible fire sale of nine of the City’s parking garages and their over 8,200 parking spaces. This was contrary to the consequences-be-damned Mayor’s strong support of the sale, otherwise known as the Public Private Partnership. (Link)

But once again, the issue of the sale of our parking garages has surfaced as the result of inquiries from fee grubbing investment banks and private equity firms trying to take advantage of the City’s financial distress by offering our Elected Elite upfront cash, cash being the most powerful aphrodisiac known to politicians.

In a May 4 Inter-Departmental memo (see below) to the Budget and Finance Committee of the City Council, Miguel Santana, the City Administrative Officer, indicated that his office had received several “unsolicited offers” with respect to the nine parking garages.

These offers included a proposal to sell the parking garages for an upfront payment of over $200 million, similar to the proposals that were rejected by the City Council.  There are also convoluted Lease-Leaseback transactions that involve considerable financial engineering.  But again, they all appear to involve upfront cash in return for the ability to operate the parking garages.

But such offers are hardly unsolicited.  More than likely, there have been many back channel, off the record, not for attribution, back and forth conversations involving investment bankers, lawyers, consultants, city officials, Council Members, the Mayor, and their staffs and campaign consultants.

Santana also suggested that the City consider a management contract with an experienced private company to operate and manage the garages, accompanied by an upfront payment to pay off the parking related debt and upgrade the systems and technology.

As part of his recommendation, the City Administrative Officer suggested that the City Council address this issue in a CLOSED SESSION, in part because one the investment banks believed its offer contained proprietary and confidential information.

But closed sessions are totally unacceptable to the public, in large part because Angelenos do not trust City Hall to do what is in the best interests of the City or the impacted communities such as Hollywood, Downtown, and Westwood. 

However, since February, there has been considerable progress, especially as it relates to including the local impacted communities in the discussions and decision making.

In Westwood, there have been constructive conversations between the Westwood community and its Council Member, Paul Koretz, to develop a “fair and productive parking rate plan and parking district.”  It also includes the possible introduction of diagonal parking. 

And according to Eric Garcetti, Hollywood is working on the idea of a parking district.

Garcetti also indicated that a transaction involving the parking garages is not true structural reform, but rather a “short-sighted, one-off idea” that is not in the best interests of our neighborhoods.

As we have recommended in the past, the City should retain an experienced and well capitalized management company to oversee the management of the parking garages; assist in the collection of the 10% Parking Tax from private operators; develop an operating, rate, technology, and capital investment plan for each facility; and assist in the refinancing of the garages and the Parking Fund.

This concept should also be expanded to include the City’s 38,000 on-street parking meters. (Link)

And most importantly, there should be no more closed sessions.  We need an open and transparent process where the impacted communities and other citizens groups are intimately involved in the development of local plans for both the parking garages and on-street parking. 

As for the memo to the Budget and Finance Committee, the City Council spoke in February against the fire sale of our parking garages.  As such, the City Administrative Officer should dismiss these vulture investors and investment bankers and focus on working with the local communities to develop viable parking strategies and alternatives.    


●●●
Insider City Hall Memo

CITY OF LOS ANGELES
INTER-DEPARTMENTAL CORRESPONDENCE
Memo 113


May 4, 2011
To:       Budget and Finance Committee
From:   Miguel A. Santana, City Administrative Officer

Subject: PARKING ASSET OPTIONS

Since the Council took action to terminate the Public-Private Partnership (P3) for certain City parking structures in February 2011, this Office has received several unsolicited offers with respect to these assets. The following is a summary of those proposals.

Public-Private Partnership (P3) for Parking Revenue to City: over $200 million

We received a proposal from an investment bank offering an upfront payment of over $200 million in exchange for a long-term concession and lease agreement for the nine parking structures previously contemplated under the P3 parking project. The bank, in partnership with an experienced operator, would assume management and operation of the facilities, including technological and capital investments for a period of 50 years.

The City Attorney has advised that we cannot release the offer, absent explicit consent by the proposer, because the proposer has requested that it be kept proprietary and confidential. The proposer seeks to maintain its competitive position by keeping the offer confidential. If the Council wants to pursue further, instructions must be provided to schedule this item for closed session so the Council can provide this Office with negotiation instructions.

Lease-Leaseback Revenue to City: TBD

We received two offers for a lease-leaseback transaction. One proposal by an investment firm in partnership with an experienced operator specified a term of 20 to 35 years and provided that the City would retain operational control, including rate setting authority and usage. The firm would make an upfront lease payment in exchange for annual lease payments by City over the term of the agreement. The City would retain revenues in excess ·of lease payments.

The second proposal by an infrastructure firm specified a term of 15 to 30 years and provides that the firm purchases the buildings, but the City retains ownership of the land, with the title reverting to the City at the end of the term. The firm would lease the facility back to the City based on tax-exempt bond rates.

Lease-Leaseback Alternative Revenue to City: TBD

We received another offer for a transaction similar to a lease-leaseback transaction wherein the firm would pay the City an up-front inducement fee structured as debt and the City would make payment to the firm for management fees and debt service over a 25 year term. Revenues would be split 95 percent to the City, 5 percent to the firm. An experienced operator would be retained to manage and operate the structures.

The issue of currently outstanding debt and associated restrictions would need to be taken into consideration and may present obstacles that cannot be satisfactorily mitigated by some of these proposed transactions. Additional discussions would be needed to explore and further refine the terms and conditions of these proposed transactions, if the Council wishes to further pursue these offers. These offers would also be subject to a competitive bid process.

Management Contract Revenue to City: TBD

Another option would be a management contract for the City's parking structures. The City would contract with a Private Parking Operator to operate and manage all of the City's parking structures with either an upfront payment to payoff the debt, revenue sharing or a combination of both. Also contemplated is having this Operator upgrade the capital equipment with more efficient payment technology to reduce costs and increase revenue collection. This contract could also include meters and/or parking lots.

FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT

Additional investigation and negotiations would be required in order to further assess the financial impacts of these offers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

If the Council determines that one of these proposals aligns with the Council's goals for optimizing the City's parking structures, direct the City Clerk to schedule a closed session hearing so that Council can provide the City Administrative Officer negotiation instructions.

●●●


(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:   lajack@gmail.com)             -cw




CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 37
Pub: May 10, 2011



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