Transportation department’s forgotten money

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Members of the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee were expected tomorrow to take a closer look at $42.6 million that unknowingly amassed in a Transportation Department special fund for more than 15 years and went overlooked during lean budget times at City Hall.

The committee is nearing the end of a series of meetings to review the mayor’s $7.7 billion budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. As part of that review, the panel today will examine how the transportation fund went untapped for years, and whether other such funds may exist.

Last week, Department of Transportation General Manager Jaime de la Vega said money from the fund should have been injected into the city’s general fund, but it was unclear why the transfers never occurred and the fund went essentially unnoticed for so long.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the budget committee, has called for a review to determine if there are other funds that could have been overlooked, beginning with a report from city staff at tomorrow’s budget committee hearing.

Krekorian said the $42.6 million — which could have gone toward services and employee salaries in recent years when the city faced a budget crisis — “is a lot to fall through the cracks.”

According to city officials, the Transportation Department fund was apparently set up to hold grant money received by the city from various sources for a variety of projects. The money is supposed to be transferred to the city’s general fund to reimburse costs the city spent for projects covered under the grants. But those transfers occurred only twice between 1995 and 2011, while money continued accruing in the fund, according to the city.

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