Assume you are elected onto the City Council, and city staff says you need to cut $3 million, or roughly 2%, from the General Fund to balance the budget. What would you cut and why?
Profession: Burbank Councilman
This year’s budget deficit is $1 million, not $3 million. That’s because of the reduced spending over the last five years through a balanced approach that included employees paying more of the pension cost, finding ways to deliver services more efficiently, and paying down our unfunded pension liability.
I proposed a hiring freeze until pension reform was enacted, saving millions.
To further reduce spending, we need to continue these approaches with more emphasis on ways to deliver services more efficiently, including outsourcing services that can be performed by the private sector in much more cost-effective ways.
By acting now, we can do this in a thoughtful way, relying on attrition. I oppose reducing services or increasing fees. One example is leasing police cars as opposed to purchasing them. This doesn’t impact our ability to deliver services, but will result in substantial savings. We also need to evaluate this approach for more of our fleet.
More important than balancing the current budget, we need to identify $8 million in additional savings to pay down more pension liability (resulting in additional recurring savings), increase the funding to repave our streets and invest more in our infrastructure, such as our park facilities.
Profession: Burbank Councilman
When city staff recommends to cut $3 million to balance the budget, this cost-cutting process would be the collaborative effort of the City Council, city staff and the residents. On average, revenues are increasing only 2.6% and expenditures are increasing 2.8% annually.
Burbank has had budget reductions for the past 10 years; every effort must be made to minimize any future negative impact on our community.
We should consider cost recovery for use of city facilities; partner with neighboring cities to provide programs; look at consolidating city departments/programs and consider public/private partnerships.
These efficiencies will generate revenue and create savings. It’s time for some outside-the-box thinking for revenue generation; budget cuts alone will not solve the problem.
Paying down the unfunded pension liability would save nearly $88,000 a year per $1 million paid in advance. The City Council, in partnership with the city’s employee groups, has taken steps to reduce this burden while maintaining vital services.
Burbank’s aging infrastructure is another priority. With more than $85 million just in street-maintenance needs, it is imperative that we develop a comprehensive plan to address our infrastructure.
Making the most of the city’s resources to benefit the entire community is wise fiscal management and common sense.
Profession: Burbank businessman
I would start by encouraging early retirements. Put a hiring freeze on non-essential personnel. Programs such as the Easter egg hunt at a cost of $15,000, while fun, are not critical. Look what $15,000 would do to repairing our streets, which would benefit everyone in Burbank.
We have to enact cost-saving ideas. Lighting technologies are an example. We can save up to 50% on lighting costs by using LED lights throughout the city. This is an ongoing savings.
I passionately believe we must build revenue. We can cut and cut, but unless we bring in new businesses and jobs, we will reach a point where services will have to be reduced. We need to avoid this at all costs.
The city of Burbank is a service business. As a business owner, I have to deal with this process daily, monthly, annually. If I can't give my customers the service they are used to, I am out of business. Burbank, while larger, should live by the same rules.
Profession: Burbank optometrist and Councilman
I would immediately freeze the hiring of all outside consultants and other professional services that were not deemed essential for city operations or could be performed by our Burbank employees.
I would suspend all non-essential travel and food expenses, switching to teleconferencing whenever possible. I would suspend all but absolutely essential, cost-justified overtime payments.
Before making cuts, I would seek repayment of money owed to the General Fund like the $50-plus million never repaid by Burbank’s former redevelopment agency and the $1 million surety bond that has gone unclaimed since the former operator of Burbank’s recycle center defaulted on his contract with the city.
Any money paid into the city attorney’s office for outside legal expenses that could be recaptured without jeopardizing the city’s legal positions should be repaid to the General Fund.
I would examine all monies being held in non-essential set-aside funds to see if they may be redirected to help balance the budget until such time as the economy recovers and they can be repaid.
I would revisit all outstanding litigation strategies to see if large sums of money can be saved through mutually beneficial settlements rather than costly court battles.
-- Alene Tchekmedyian, firstname.lastname@example.org