Burbank has a long way to go to solve its systemic budget deficit, but the recent approval of the 2018-19 budget strives to put the city on the right path to address its ongoing financial issue.
The City Council at its May 22 meeting unanimously approved the budget, which includes a hiring freeze and changes to the city’s cost-recovery policy.
Should everything go Burbank’s way and Measure T pass at the polls on June 5, the city will have about a $200,000 shortfall in its General Fund next fiscal year. However, should Measure T fail, the city will face a roughly $12.4 million deficit during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Measure T asks Burbank voters if the city should continue its practice of transferring no more than 7% of Burbank Water and Power’s gross annual electric sales to the General Fund — a practice the city has been following since 1958.
Several residents said they’re concerned the ballot measure will increase rates for residents, but Cindy Giraldo, the city’s financial services director, clarified during the meeting that electric rates would not change.
But the city isn’t relying just on Measure T as it looks to minimize the deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.
Before turning to drastic cuts in city services, the City Council agreed to implement a six-month hiring freeze in each city department and bar any salary increases. At the end of the freeze, council members will review the impact of the stoppage and decide whether to extend the period, if needed.
However, City Manager Ron Davis will have the authority to fill vacancies during the freeze if it is absolutely necessary to maintain service levels.
Burbank has also taken several steps that could save the city about $9 million annually. Some of those steps include having all employees pay half of their pension costs, compensating city employees at a market rate and implementing a cost-recovery policy based on benefits to the community.
Council members agreed to increase rates for hillside-development permits and single-family development permits.
Hillside-development permits will rise from $1,111 to $2,962.40, which recovers about 80% of the cost to the city. Additionally, single-family development permits will skyrocket from $656 to $2,962.40, which is also an 80% cost recovery for Burbank.
After discussing the issue with residents, the City Council decided to slightly lower its appeal fees to the Planning Board. Appellants will now be charged $1,026.40 to appeal a project instead of the $1,241 they were charged this fiscal year.
Several residents opposed the cost-recovery policy, which increased appeal fees from $130 to $1,241 during this fiscal year.