MTA Warns of Hikes

Although it gets a penny for every dollar spent in L.A. County fueling more than half its $2.8 billion budget the MTA lacks enough money to run its expanding public-transit system and warns of fare hikes and route changes, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to close a $150 million budget shortfall for the 2006-07 fiscal year that begins July 1, but CEO Roger Snoble says the one-time fixes and cash reserves used to shore up the budget in previous years have almost run out. Next year at this time, the agency expects to have less than $70 million in reserve enough to cover one month's payroll but hardly enough to handle the next $150 million shortfall in fiscal 2007.

LAX Wants Its Image on a Much Higher Plane
The city is embarking on an image makeover for the aging airport that it hopes will raise LAX from near the bottom of J.D. Power's annual airport survey. In 2004, travelers ranked LAX 19th out of 22 airports that serve 30 million or more people a year. LAX's poor reputation with passengers has bothered airport officials, who were reluctant to spend money to update LAX while lawmakers debated an $11-billion modernization proposal, the Los Angeles Times reported. To start, officials plan to spend $6 million a year to update terminals, including refurbishing 18 of LAX's 180 restrooms a year. Work has already begun on a $2-million upgrade of Terminal 3. Officials will also spend $4.5 million on landscaping.

L.A. Schools in a Legal Mess With Insurer
The Los Angeles Board of Education is locked in a high-stakes legal battle over a $100-million insurance policy it bought to cover the rising costs of cleaning school construction sites contaminated with toxic substances. The school district, which recently filed a lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court, accuses industry giant American International Group of reneging on a 1999 agreement to cover for 20 years much of the school district's environmental cleanup costs, an expense district officials say could reach the limits of the policy, the Los Angeles Times reported. AIG officials deny the accusations in the lawsuit. District officials took out an insurance policy in the wake of the costly debacle of trying to build the Belmont Learning Complex.

State Says Hawthorne City Manager Double-Dipped
Hawthorne's city manager improperly accepted tens of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits despite his high-paying city job, the Daily Breeze reported. State regulators have demanded that Richard Prentice pay back pension checks totaling nearly $90,000 that he received in the past year. They had cautioned the city that Prentice could not keep his job as city manager if he continued to draw retirement benefits. Prentice said he never received a crucial state notice that his continued employment would violate state retirement law. Nonetheless, he said he intends to pay back the money and has officially left retirement to work full time for the city.

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