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Glendale city budget meeting addresses expected funding gaps, increased fees

To get ahead of seven years of relatively small expected deficits, the City Council set itself on a path to approve a second round of retirement incentives at the second-to-last budget meeting for the year Tuesday night.

How many employees may take the incentive has yet to be determined because officials must first hash out details of the incentive with city unions. When the city initiated its first round of retirement incentives about 150 employees left City Hall in 2012, bringing full-time positions down to 1,588 — the lowest level in more than a decade.

FOR THE RECORD:  An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the city had set aside roughly $897,000 for a new round of retirement incentives. Rather, that amount will pay for a portion of a previously approved retirement incentive. The new round of incentives will be paid for using a portion of funding included in the $225,716,815 budget for total citywide salary and benefits for fiscal year 2014-15.

The council approved spending about $1.6 million on the first retirement incentives in 2012, but roughly $897,000 of that was budgeted into last year's financing, according to city records.

The move is expected to help bridge a $495,000 General Fund budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, and forecasted deficits ranging from $1.7 million to $5.5 million through fiscal year 2018-19.

Next year's General Fund budget, which pays for police, parks and other public services, is proposed at roughly $181 million, up from nearly $171 million this year.

The main contributors to the increase are proposed withdrawals from the city's reserve to pay for $5 million of a proposed $15-million Central Library renovation and a $2-million data center upgrade.

The city's total proposed budget, which is expected to be adopted at the June 3 council meeting, is nearly $833 million, a boost from $738 million the prior year. Much of the increases are attributable to planned capital improvements with Glendale Water & Power and Community Services & Parks, many of which are to be paid for through bond financing and various grants.

Despite proposing retirement incentives, officials are expected to create a new executive position for the city's public information officer, boosting the pay range for that job from between $73,356 and $106,704 to between $114,480 and $166,548, as well as create a variety of new titles for specialized positions in the city attorney and parks departments.

The council this week also reviewed a variety of increased fees. Council members agreed to increase several fees for developers to the full city cost of working on those applications.

For years, developers have been charged a reduced fee to encourage more apartment construction downtown, but now officials want to reign in the development boom.

Council members agreed to nix increasing fees for parking permits in preferential parking districts from $25 to $31, but officials split when talking about bumping up the fee for historic homeowners who want to apply for a tax discount.

Currently, the city charges $1,250 to process an application for the so-called Mills Act, a federal program that reduces property taxes as an incentive to save historic properties. Councilman Ara Najarian's suggestion to drive up that fee to about $10,500 made waves this week, with Mayor Zareh Sinanyan calling for a $5,000 compromise and Councilwoman Laura Friedman calling for a $3,000 fee.

Friedman said Najarian's proposal would deter historic preservation, but Najarian said homeowners should pay the full cost of processing the discount if they are going to benefit financially.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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