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.
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
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.
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],”
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]
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.