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Budget headed into deeper hole

Laura Sturza

City Council members learned this week that the city’s anticipated

deficit for the 2003-04 fiscal year is up almost $1 million from last

week’s projection of $8.6 million.

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It is early in the budget process, so many of the figures are

still being finalized, Financial Services Director Derek Hanway said

of the change to $9.5 million.

“I don’t think we really know what [the budget] is yet,” Mayor

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David Laurell said following the Wednesday budget study session, the

council’s first of the year. “Remember, everything that [was being

presented] is preliminary.”

The city’s reduced revenues are mainly the result of lower

interest rates that affect the city’s return on its investments.

Rates have been declining each month for the past several months,

Hanway said. But changing the portfolio is difficult because

“everything’s down,” he said.

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The city also has less income from transient occupancy taxes.

Additional lost revenue is being traced to utility user taxes,

resulting especially from competition in the phone industry, which

has driven rates down, Hanway said. Higher expenses are due to

increased costs of employee compensation and benefits packages.

At Wednesday’s study session, council members’ faces turned grim

as they considered cutting city staff and services.

“They’d kind of flinch each time [those cuts were discussed],”

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City Manager Mary Alvord said.

In order to make up the anticipated shortfall, department leaders

offered their proposals for cutting up to 10% from their budgets at

the meeting. Suggestions include freezing eight open Police

Department positions, reducing a graffiti-removal contract,

eliminating the performing-arts grant program and charging fees for

renting meeting rooms at libraries.

“I am extremely concerned when you are talking about touching

people’s lives when their positions might be eliminated,” Councilman

Jef Vander Borght said. "[However,] there’s no more than 20 posi-

tions of the 1,200 employees.”

Though department heads have ideas about making those cuts,

specific details about potential job cuts were not made public.

Any reduction to safety services causes concern, Alvord said. But

the Police Department always has vacancies, so freezing jobs would

not change day-to-day operations, she added.

Some other budget changes involve shifting programs from one

department to a different one that has funds to cover it.

Mike Flad, director of parks, recreation and community services,

said city staff takes such pride in Burbank that many employees would

make up for cuts to supplies or staff.

For example, “Brace Park is [landscaper] Steve Aldana’s park,”

Flad said. “He will go in and rake the sand [out of the play area]

himself.”

A final draft of the proposed budget is expected to be completed

in early May. The council will adopt a final budget by June 30.

The council will continue the review process during Tuesday City

Council meetings in order to hear residents’ input on proposals.

The council is expected to begin the budget sessions at 6:30 p.m.

May 6 and 20 at City Hall, 275 E. Olive Ave.


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