By Ted AYALA
The numbers for the city’s operating results for the last fiscal year and the first quarter of the 2013-14 looked bright, according to a report submitted to the Glendale City Council. Director of Finance Robert Elliot delivered the news to council on Tuesday night.
“We have good news for a change,” he reported.
According to the report, the city’s General Fund closed the fiscal year June 2013 with a $3.4 million surplus – $1.5 million less than had been anticipated in earlier prognostications. Expenditures also defied predictions, coming in at $4.7 million less than expected. Those savings were due mostly to job vacancies that the city has not filled.
Total expenditures for the year amounted to $165.7 million, approximately $5 million short of the $170.6 million appropriated for that purpose.
The Unassigned and Charter Reserve Fund also enjoyed increases in its balance, jumping from $59 million to $62.4 million. Total Fund Balance increased from $59.6 million to $63 million. The reserve percentage grew to 36.5%, exceeding the 35% target that had been set by the city.
These results have yet to be audited, but Elliot said he did not expect the numbers to change.
Some of the factors that contributed to the good news were an increase in property tax revenue aided by a corresponding improvement of the local housing market. Additional property tax revenue was funneled into the city in the wake of the dissolution of its former redevelopment agency.
A flurry of redevelopment in the city also proved to be a boon, leading to increased revenue for licenses and permits.
“We don’t expect that to continue, but it did give us a very large bump [in revenue],” noted Elliot.
He also reported that the city was “on track” to meet its goals for the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
Elliot also discussed with the council a potential revenue measure that, if approved, would go before the public for the city’s special election in June 2014. Though council did not consent to any particular method forward by which to move the measure forward, they did approve to continue the discussion on how to posit such a measure to the public. Any such measure on the ballot during a special election would require a 2/3 supermajority approval of the public.
“Because we have the special election,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa in his remarks introducing the city’s options, “we have an opportunity to pose questions to the public.” Those questions could take the form of ballot measures and amendments to the city’s charter, among other options.
“Folks have intimated they want more service and are willing to pay more for it,” he said.
Some of the alternatives the city can pursue include a “quality-of-life tax” that would be a measure expressly used to fund parks and libraries to levels above their current ones and an increase of the transient occupancy tax on local hotels and motels.
Council would have until March 2014 to reach an ultimate decision on how to proceed.
Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan expressed misgivings about pursuing the possibility of another tax or fee on residents, especially in the wake of a recent electrical fee increase.
“Now such a short time later we’re potentially opening the door towards an extra expense on our residents,” he said. “I know we’re going the democratic route and we’re trying to explore whether there is sufficient support for [this, but] I don’t feel comfortable with [this].”
His colleague, Councilmember Laura Friedman, was careful to note that any measure taken would “not be imposed” on the public, saying that it is important for the public to decide what to do with its money.
“I want to do what the public wants to do,” she said. “At this point, this is just fact-finding.”
“We want to take a little leap and find out what comes out of this,” said Mayor Dave Weaver. “The public has got to weigh on [this]. I’d like to at least explore this.”
City Council returned to session on Tuesday night after canceling last week’s meeting in observance of Veterans’ Day. Council voted Tuesday to also cancel their next two meetings. They will convene again on Dec. 10.