At State of the City address, Burbank mayor bullish on the future

While the recession dealt Burbank some economic blows, the 101-year-old city's financial health is stable — sales tax revenues are rising and new infrastructure projects are on the horizon, Burbank Mayor Dave Golonski said Wednesday during the annual State of the City address.

The event — hosted by the Burbank Chamber of Commerce at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel — as a very public send-off for outgoing City Manager Mike Flad, whose last day is Friday as he prepares to take the top post in South Gate.

Flad received a standing ovation for his two decades of service, into which Golonski said Flad “poured his heart and soul.”

Since the economic recession, Burbank's had to make budget cuts, but Golonski said the city's financial health is bouncing back.

He touted the Media City — home to Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., ABC and NBC studios, which together employ nearly 20,000 — as an efficient and easy place to do business. Burbank's has seen 100 new retailers, restaurants and offices open this past year, according to city officials.

“This is the first year we're projecting to see a bump here in revenue — a small bump,” Golonski said of the city's General Fund, which pays for most public services, such as libraries, police and fire protection.

Sales tax revenues have seen a steady increase over the last three years, topping off at just under $30 million last year.

But wrestling with the budget has been a challenge. Burbank continues to see skyrocketing pension costs — $15.8 million in fiscal year 2010-11 alone. But that figure is projected to nearly double to $31.4 million in two years, Golonski said.

“A $15-million increase over a $150-million General Fund budget is a pretty bitter pill to swallow,” Golonski said, adding that pension costs continue rise despite cuts to programs and services.

In addition, the dissolution of redevelopment agencies was responsible for a loss of $14 million in revenue for the city this fiscal year, affecting affordable housing and economic development projects, Golonski said.

Still, the city is focused on renovating its aging infrastructure, including repairing cracked sidewalks.

The ongoing turmoil within the police department and slew of former and current officers who've filed lawsuits against the city — which to date, has cost the city $6.8 million — continues to be a challenge, Golonski said.

“Work still remains ahead of us,” he said.

Through all the departmental issues, however, police officers have kept the community safe, Golonski added. “They didn't miss a beat.”

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