Glendale City Council Tries to Plug Budget Gap

Glendale City Council had to wrangle with tough choices on Tuesday during the last council meeting. With an expected shortfall of $18 million in revenue looming, the city of Glendale will be forced to take decisive action in plugging the budget gap while maintaining city services.

“Our strategies are seeking concessions from various [city] employee groups,” explained Glendale’s director of Finance Robert Elliott, who enumerated several options that the city can take to save money.

“We’re looking at salary and benefit restructurings, continued privatization [of public services], consolidation of services, continued efforts with [Burbank and Pasadena] to leverage our resources and to do things more efficiently. We also proposed a number of new fees and increases for fees for this year,” he said.

Altogether, the new budget for the fiscal year 2011-12 is $149,250,155.

Though certain public works projects such as the Central Avenue Project were cut, others were retained. Funding for libraries and the Montrose Christmas Parade will remain. The city will also withhold passing ultimate judgment on funding for the city’s Rose Parade float until next month. However, 40 vacant city positions will be eliminated in addition to laying off eight city staff members.

Departments that suffered cuts included Community Development, Community Services and Parks, the Fire Department, the Police Department, and Public Works.

“The 2011-12 budget is balanced,” reminded the city’s director of Finances. “Core services have not been impacted, although we still have outstanding issues with the state and local economy.”

Local residents weighed in with their opinions about the proposals listed in the city budget.

Glendale resident Tony Vale bemoaned the cuts in staffing the Community Services and Parks Department would face, especially at the Verdugo Skate Park.

“The reason you want to keep the staff levels the same is safety,” said Vale as he recounted an experience he had with a belligerent park patron who physically threatened both Vale and his son. Vale then praised the staff at Verdugo Skate Park for defusing the situation and used it as an example of how necessary it is to fully staff parks for the public’s safety. “It will only be a matter of time before a situation takes place that could have been handled properly [by having the parks fully staffed] and then everyone will realize what a mistake it is to cut [park] staffing.”

“I disagree with some of the changes and reductions proposed in the budget,” said Councilman Rafi Manoukian. “I also oppose increasing fees. In these economic times, everyone is having a difficult time financially – especially the city. But I don’t think increasing fees is the proper way to go. I do have alternatives. I believe we can [fill in] the $18 million deficit without increasing fees and reductions [in services]. I think we should eliminate overtime for all departments. I believe that eliminating vacant employee positions will save $7 to $8 million.” Manoukian was the sole vote against approving the budget.

Praise came from Councilman Dave Weaver for city staff “doing everything humanly possible” to come up with a balanced budget.

“I just have this feeling that we haven’t done enough,” countered Councilman Frank Quintero. “We could’ve done more looking at efficiencies and how [the city] delivers services. I’m not at all happy that we took $1.3 million from Community Services and Parks.” He also criticized that Community Services and Parks were cutting employees from the ranks of those that come into direct contact with the public, not from its management.

Despite this criticism, Quintero, along with councilmembers Dave Weaver and Ara Najarian and Mayor Laura Friedman approved the budget.

“We’ll be dealing with this again next year,” added Quintero. “I don’t think this is going to get any better.”