By Ted AYALA
Weathering the worst economy to have hit the country since the Great Depression, cities across the U.S. are seeing their treasuries depleted by falling tax revenues and little hope for near-term increases in income. Faced with this dire situation, local governments have been forced to shear services and funding for a host of public projects save for only essential services. But the need to balance desires and wants of the public with the reality of a budget have forced cities to some difficult, if at times, creative decisions.
Many cities, like Bell, Montebello, and Compton have taken to cropping and eliminating public services, even emergency services, wholesale in an effort to keep their cities solvent.
Other cities, like Costa Mesa, have been experimenting with outsourcing municipal services and programs to private agencies to decidedly mixed results. Glendale has fared the strain of a weak economy and high unemployment much better than other cities of comparable size. Yet the fiscal realities of a budget shortfall are knocking on the city’s door and the city council will be forced to answer them – perhaps drastically – in the coming weeks.
In times of coming crisis, rumors swirl and spread like wildfires throughout affected communities. The Crescenta Valley, which depends vitally not only for essential public services but also for funding and assistance in some of the community’s keystone events such as the Independence Day Block Party and the Christmas Parade, stands to lose much in the face of any deep budget cuts. Cuts in these events, which combined bring in tens of thousands of people and generate much needed revenue for the area, could have a profoundly negative effect on area businesses. As these scenarios are contemplated, both residents and business owners have been busy speculating on what may happen and how it could affect them.
Addressing these rumors, public information officer for the city of Glendale Tom Lorenz shed some light on the crisis facing the city and what residents may expect in the future.
“[The] rumor that [any] council person is out to cut programs is false,” said Lorenz. “City staff identifies services that are discretionary, meaning non vital. We have an $18 million deficit. Staff would recommend what would be cut in order to protect vital services such as the public safety, public works, etc. Quality of life is very important too, so keeping parks and libraries open is essential.”
Whether those non-vital services would also include the aforementioned public events, Lorenz responded, “Bottom line, we have to cut $18 million in something. So the million dollar question is do we keep public safety, public works, and parks and libraries open, or do you keep discretionary services?”
Delineating in stark terms the cost to the city in helping to fund the Montrose Christmas Parade he added, “The parade costs this city in this manner: $10,000 in financial support from the parks department; $18,000 in police services for street closures, traffic control, and security; $6,000 in GTV6 television coverage; a few thousand in public works and traffic engineering. So the parade [costs] upward of $40,000 in city support.”
While Lorenz offered assurances that the foothills region wasn’t being specifically targeted for cuts, he did note that the area will have to share the pain with other areas of Glendale.
“Anything in the discretionary section of each department is up for cuts,” he said. “City staff makes recommendations to the city council and through the budget sessions, we’ll work to identify which programs and services we would like to keep and those which, unfortunately, would have to be cut.”