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City ducks under its budget marks

Austerity pays off for last fiscal year

jury still out on how current year will fare.

November 18, 2011|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Just this summer, Glendale officials were expressing concern as they took a machete to the city’s budget. But on Tuesday, they were patting themselves on the back for following through on austerity measures adopted the prior year.

Finance Director Bob Elliot said city departments came in about $7.6 million under budget for fiscal year 2010-11, spending $167.9 million — or about $5 million less than the nearly $173 million in resources available.

“In a year in which you had considerable budget constraints, you closed almost a $10-million deficit,” said Jim Starbird. “We closed the year actually putting money into reserve by being under budget. [That’s] true savings.”

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During last fiscal year — Glendale’s runs from July 1 to June 30 — the General Fund had a net surplus of $13.6 million, about half of which comes from Redevelopment Agency transfers, according to a city report. Penny-pinching at City Hall also attributed to the surplus.

“I doubt there are very many communities our size … that can say they are doing that,” Starbird said, referring to departments coming in under budget. “So many are dipping into their reserves.”

Sales tax income totaled about $592,000 more than expected following an uptick in auto sales, hotel bookings and restaurant receipts, according to the report. And revenue from permits was $526,000 more than anticipated as the city saw increased building activity, although those gains were offset by the city’s utility users’ tax coming in almost $1 million less than expected.

Officials attributed the slide to conservation and high unemployment among consumers.

“While the increases observed in several of the General Fund revenue categories provide optimism for the future, it is uncertain if these increases will be sustainable over the foreseeable future,” the report stated.

Officials said there is a hiring freeze in place and employee unions have made several concessions when it comes to benefits, but they noted in the report that increases in pension costs and employee benefits continue to overrun revenue gains.

Some City Council members said they were concerned about seeing job postings despite the hiring freeze.

“It’s our understanding that it would be a rare exception that positions would be filled,” said Councilman Ara Najarian.

The city has kept more than 100 positions vacant, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hiring at all.

“There is some movement,” she said, adding that the city decides to hire for some posts when the need to do so arises.

Elliot said for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011-12, Glendale is on target to meet its $849.3-million budget, which faced $18 million in controversial cuts this summer.

“The outlook is good, at least for 2010/11. For 2011/12, I think the jury is out [as to] where our resources will be, but I think we’re doing well in the expenditure area,” Elliot said.
 
 

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