SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council took an ax to the city’s workforce late last week, reacting to warnings that the nation’s second-biggest city faced budget deficits of almost $700 million over the next 17 months.

The council directed city administrative officer Miguel Santana to cut 3,000 funded positions in addition to 1,000 job cuts ordered earlier in the month.

Villaraigosa consolidated the city’s departments of Community Development and Neighborhood Empowerment and eliminated the Environmental Affairs and the Human Services departments.

Los Angeles, the nation’s second-biggest city, faces a $212 million general fund budget deficit in fiscal 2010 which ends June 30 and $485 million in fiscal 2011.

The 4,000 job cuts would include both open and filled positions and save the city $260 million next year.

The job-slashing follows 2,400 early retirements negotiated in the current fiscal year and could bring the total cuts to 6,400 out of a general fund workforce of about 30,000.

The council action was a quick response to Moody’s Investors Service’s decision to cut its outlook on the city’s Aa2-rated general obligation bonds and other debt to negative from stable on Wednesday.

The report cited uncertainty about the council’s will to address the deep budget deficit, and Santana warned elected officials that a downgrade would make it harder for the city to access credit it will need to make it through next year.

“The council hereby reiterates its commitment to eliminate 1,000 positions and instructs the personnel department and all departments and offices of the city, including elected offices, to eliminate an additional 3,000 position authorities by any means necessary, including layoffs,” the motion said.

The job motion passed by a 9-to-3 vote with three members absent.

The precise details of the job cuts will be revealed in Villaraigosa’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year in the spring and will be subject to considerable debate and negotiation between the mayor and the council.

The number may also be changed in negotiations with the city’s labor unions, which are being asked to take pay cuts next year.

Villaraigosa moved to implement some cuts he ordered and the council approved earlier this month.

On Friday, he announced the elimination of the environmental affairs and human services departments, eliminating 56 general fund positions to save about $3.2 million a year.

On Monday, the mayor announced the consolidation of the neighborhood empowerment and community development departments, eliminating 27 positions to save $2 million annually.

“The only way to break the cycle of endemic budget shortfalls is with a long-term strategy to maximize efficiency and revenue,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “In the face of continued budget shortfalls, our job now is to find ways to deliver city services cheaper, smarter, and more efficiently.”

He also said the city’s moved 200 general fund workers to open positions at enterprise funds.

The council members who voted against the job cut resolution said the measure was an unstudied, hasty response to the city’s budget crisis.

“Where did we get the 4,000 number? Plucked it out of the air. It’s been on the table about an hour,” said council member Paul Koretz. “I think this is going too far without any analysis at all. We don’t know what the impacts will be.”

But even the opponents said they know job cuts are coming.

“Our deficit is increasing by $1.5 million each day that goes on,” said council member Paul Krekorian. “There is no way that this council is going to avoid significant layoffs.”

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