By Ted AYALA
If one word could summarize the feeling left in the wake of the Glendale City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, “uncertainty” was definitely it. It was a word that City Manager Scott Ochoa seized upon to describe what looms forth for the city at the end of its process to review the budget for 2012-13 and how proposed cost-cutting measures will impact the city.
Most pertinent is the uncertainty over how effective the lay-offs and early retirement offers the city hopes will mitigate the effect of those lay-offs.
“Almost 200 positions will have been eliminated on a going-forward basis,” said Ochoa. “That is something to stop and ponder. Because that isn’t happening in 2007 or 2008. This is happening at the tail end of the worst recession since the Great Depression when all the low hanging fruit has been picked, all of the easy cuts have already been made.”
“I want to make one thing clear,” said Councilmember Ara Najarian. “We’ve demonstrated clearly that the iconology isn’t necessarily driving these cuts. An improved economy won’t help these cuts. It’s a combination of forces that has led this council to these difficult decisions we will make today.”
Aside from the drop in revenue from taxes and tariffs, Glendale has been buffeted by the rising costs of PERS, as well as the liquidation by Gov. Edmund G. Brown of the state’s redevelopment agencies, which were a major engine of revenue and growth for the city.
“If it weren’t for the state, we’d be painting a different picture,” said Ochoa.
The Council had hoped to mitigate the pain caused by mass lay-offs by providing early retirement options for eligible city employees. Eighty-five employees are projected to take that option. But the city will still be forced to lay-off another approximately 40 positions, with Community Services and Parks and Public Works taking the brunt of the blow. The savings from these measures are expected to be over $13 million and result in the city shedding approximately 10% of its work roster.
Despite these predictions, many variables still remain to be determined and will not be fully fleshed out until later in the fiscal year.
“Though the fiscal year begins July 1,” Ochoa added, “The operational year really begins Sept. 1. You will see in November the results of our first quarter of operation which will be in flux. There are no two ways about it. But by mid-year we should have our sea legs beneath us having brought down to what our fighting weight really needs to be for this new normal we’re now dealing with.”
Though job cuts will be central to the budget, rate and fee increases will also play an important role, with the impact to be felt from library fees to delinquent fines.
“It’s my hope that we can continue to meet the needs of the city with a reduced workforce,” said Councilmember Laura Friedman, “because the economy is not going to turn around any time soon and redevelopment is gone forever.”