Election fallout about to hit home

Until now, the state's budget problems have been an abstraction to most Californians. That won't be the case much longer.

Cities and counties that have cut services, police and firefighters in the recession could be in store for more cost cutting, moves that would be felt throughout the state.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has recommended the state borrow nearly $2 billion in property tax revenue from local governments after voters roundly rejected three budget-related propositions in Tuesday's special election.

The measures were intended to steer $6 billion in revenue to the state, but their defeat has left lawmakers to figure out how to close a deficit that has grown to $21 billion.

If cities and counties have some of their property taxes taken from them, local government officials say police and fire services would be reduced, school class sizes would get larger, libraries would cut hours and parks would be messier.

Some Los Angeles fire stations could be shut if the city is forced to make more cuts and the department is not allowed to fill vacancies, Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Tina Haro said Wednesday. That would mean a slower response when residents call 911.

"It's going to take us longer to get to you and save your life, possibly, or start to put a fire out," she said.

Schools also face steep cuts. The governor has proposed cutting $5.3 billion from schools and community colleges. He has suggested that schools could lay off teachers and shorten the year by up to seven days. That's on top of $8.6 billion in education cuts in the budget plan passed in February.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramón Cortines said voters' rejection of the budget propositions will force the district to impose furlough days and salary freezes, drop summer school, reduce after-school programs and put administrative employees on a 10-month work year.

As property tax revenue dips, at least 75 cities have passed resolutions declaring financial hardship, the League of California Cities said.

"They're laying off staff, furloughing staff, shortening hours at facilities," said Chris McKenzie, the league's executive director. "When somebody needs city services, they're going to find them harder to get."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said that up to 2,800 layoffs may be needed to balance his city's budget if unions don't accept furloughs and benefits concessions.

Stockton has sent layoff notices to 55 police officers and 35 civilian employees to address a $31 million budget deficit. Vallejo city officials have warned they may be forced to slash city services by 20 percent, close two fire stations and cut 30 law enforcement positions. Sacramento is considering deep cuts to maintenance of parks and golf courses.

Across the state, institutions that rely on state funds have begun to adjust in ways large and small.

Many of the state's 94 domestic violence emergency shelter programs likely will fold. The Los Angeles County Superior Court will close once a month. Dental care at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, near Sacramento, will cease July 1. The July 4 fireworks show in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, will be shorter.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

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