Council tries to defray cuts

Burbank Leader

DOWNTOWN — The City Council on Thursday moved to lessen the blow of proposed cuts to police, fire and library services, using a patchwork of other funding sources to stave off hiring freezes and program reductions.

The moves are expected to prevent fire officials from enacting a temporary two-month station closure and freezing three firefighter positions, and would largely maintain the hours at the animal shelter and library.

City Council members gave the go-ahead to use $1.44 million from a rainy-day fund and another $1.25 million in police and library funds to bridge the anticipated gap.

Burbank officials began the budgeting process with proposals to freeze vacant positions, cut public services and raise service rates to bridge a projected $5.8-million overall budget shortfall for 2010-11.

Burbank Fire Chief Ray Krakowski proposed roughly $1 million in budget reductions, which would have reduced the daily staffing levels to 36. Council members opted to free up $440,000 in one-time money to fund the three firefighter positions.

"No doubt there was a lot of grief on their faces. The decorum was tense," Krakowski said. "At the end of the day I feel OK with what they did because I know it was hard to do."

With the number of daily firefighters up to 37 in Burbank, the shift allows the department to operate more four-firefighter teams. "They realized that a priority has to be placed on public safety and used nonrecurring funds to properly staff the Fire Department for one year," said Capt. Lew Stone, president of Burbank Firefighters Local 778.

Police Department recommendations for accommodating roughly $1.87 million in cuts included suspending the joint-air support program with Glendale after the coming year and slashing two animal control officers and one kennel attendant to curtail the shelter's hours to just Wednesday through Saturday.

The council opted to preserve hours at the animal shelter by funding one animal control officer and staffing the kennel attendant for six months. They also agreed to fund park patrol, two police cadet positions and a dedicated probation officer.

Parks officials could bring back a park-user fee that would offset park patrol by about $100,000.

Although it's the first time the city plans to tap its rainy-day fund to start the year, the council was able keep more than $1.1 million in the account.

An extra $150,000 dedicated to libraries is expected to provide enough staff to keep the Central and Buena Vista libraries open until 9 p.m. rather than the proposed 8 p.m.

Still, the budget includes branches opening Saturdays at noon rather than 10 a.m., and more limited hours at the children's rooms.

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