City faces budget shortfall

Glendale City Council members searched for some reassuring words for each other and the public as they squared off Tuesday for the first pass at a city budget with a deficit in the coming year of at least $9.4 million.

“I have the feeling that the sun will come up tomorrow,” Councilman Frank Quintero quipped.

One point immediately established was that the capital improvement budget the council labored over for six months will survive as adopted, with a cash infusion.

A series of bookkeeping moves along with a transfer of $4 million from non-general fund departments will balance the capital budget and the liability reserve, but will clobber the year-end balance carried over to the coming year.

Assistant finance director Ron Ahlers said the major hit came from the need to find $6.5 million to pay a court settlement resulting from storm-related land slippages. The recommended shifts leave the liability reserve with a small deficit on the books, but with no major hits on the horizon, he assured the council. The move allowed the city to continue with a reserve fund of 31%.

City Manager Jim Starbird said Glendale is in a better position than many other cities because of conservative budget practices. He did say he was recommending a hiring freeze, and was asking department heads to come back with ranked cut lists of 5%, 7.5% and 10%.

Councilman Bob Yousefian said he also wanted the city attorney to look into existing city employee agreements to determine if any of them would allow for a possible freeze on some raises.

Mayor John Drayman said he wanted the council to look at “the elephant in the room,” the high overtime budget for some departments, and he asked for the help of one city gadfly in doing that.

Former Pasadena police chief Bruce Philpott has been delivering a series of five minute presentations to the council charging that the fire department is mismanaged, and calling for reforms which he said could save $15 million a year. Drayman said he would give Philpott a half hour to make his case when the fire department budget comes up, in exchange for dropping the topic from the weekly meetings.

The council budget sessions will continue through June 24, the tentative date to adopt a spending program. A formal public hearing on the budget will be held before the council on June 10.

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