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Hard choices face city budgeters

Gap of $8.4 million may bring cuts to services that residents will find painful.

March 08, 2011|By Gretchen Meier,

The upcoming budget cycle will bring hard decisions for the Burbank City Council, pitting funds for firefighters and homeless services against library hours and animal shelters.

Last year for the first time, the city tapped its stabilization fund, which it uses as a rainy-day account, to cover some expenses, but as the council gears up to make cuts for a seventh time in nine years, difficult decisions will have to be made, officials said.

The upcoming process to close an $8.4-million budget gap will come down to making more popular short-term fixes, or making painful cuts that will put Burbank on more solid footing for the long term, officials said.


Using the $9 million from a repaid loan by Burbank Water and Power to cover the gap was dismissed by city officials as short-sighted.

“Using that money to fix the immediate problem will only hurt us more next year,” said City Manager Mike Flad.

The current deficit includes programs and positions paid for using one-time funds, but more city services, such as partially funding the after-school program for middle schools and televised commission meetings, also will be considered for inclusion in the budget.

Maintaining the joint police helicopter program, three firefighter positions, current library hours and existing animal-shelter staffing would contribute $1.8 million to the $8.4-million budget gap, according to a city report.

Non-recurring expenditures, such as homeless outreach services and a youth campground at Stough Canyon Park, would add at least another $520,000 to the projected deficit if approved by the council.

At the same time, labor costs make up 81% of Burbank’s General Fund — which pays for most public services — and are projected to rise by 5% each year.

“It would not be prudent if we ignored labor playing some role in this,” Management Services Director Judie Wilke said during a City Council budget study session last week.

Furloughs were dismissed as ineffective, but avoiding layoffs would mean additional cuts elsewhere.

“With furloughs, the amount of work is still the same and pay cuts mean employees are doing the same amount of work for less money,” said Wilke. “Layoffs only work if you cut services too.”

Keeping recurring expenses at current levels will lead to a rising deficits, projected at $16.4 million for the fiscal year beginning in 2014, officials said.


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