Burbank City Council approves budget and begins preparing for looming deficit

After having to make some tough discussions about the city’s financial situation, Burbank officials said they are ready to move forward and find solutions to looming budget deficits.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the 2017-18 budget, which has a deficit of about $1 million. Now, council members and city staff will continue trying to figure out ways to get the budget back into the black.

Burbank is projected to generate about $164.9 million in revenue next fiscal year, but it is also expected to have about $166 million in expenses.

The city’s financial future is not looking positive for the next five years. Cindy Giraldo, the city’s financial services director, said the deficit is projected to be about $13.7 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year and jump to about $16.6 million by 2022-23 should the City Council not do anything to address the shortfall.

Despite the multimillion dollar deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, there were no cuts made to any services. However, several residents told council members they were not happy with a proposed fee change for bus service for seniors and the disabled.

Residents said they were upset that the fares for seniors and disabled people would go from a voluntary donation to a $2 fare per ride.

David Kriske, the city’s assistant community development director of transportation, said the fare amount was proposed as a way to help the city recover some of the costs of operating the service.

“[Paying] $2 one way and $2 another way, $4 per trip is just a little bit too much,” resident Camille Feigan said.

Judie Wilke, the city’s parks, recreation and community services director, outlined a new citywide program called Burbank Pass, a subsidy program to help residents who are in need of financial assistance when paying for city services, programs and activities.

She said those who qualify for the pass would have had their fare drop to 50 cents per trip.

However, council members decided to eliminate the fee for bus service for seniors and the disabled with a Burbank Pass and charge non-pass holders $1 per ride.

There was additional discussion regarding Fire Chief Tom Lenahan’s request to eliminate three vacant firefighter positions and place the salaries assigned to those spotsin an overtime fund for the fire department.

For several years, Lenahan has been using the salaries tied to those vacant positions to help pay for overtime costs. Moving the money for those salaries into the overtime fund was his way of cleaning up the books and making the use of that money more transparent, Lenahan said.

Lenahan added that eliminating the positions would not affect the level of service residents receive in any way.

However, Councilman Bob Frutos asked Lenahan if he would rather hire one more firefighter instead of eliminating the three positions.

In the end, council members decided to keep the status quo by having Lenahan continue pulling money from those vacant positions and not close them.

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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