Balanced budget gets OK

CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday adopted a balanced $775.3-million budget for the coming fiscal year despite criticism from residents who for more than a month have taken issue with rising municipal employee costs against anemic revenues.

Councilman Bob Yousefian, as expected, was the sole dissenter in the 4-1 vote, saying the budget — especially burdens on the $168.7-million general fund — did not reflect the priorities of the community and put the city on pace to further outstrip revenues.

His colleagues have disputed that position, saying criticism about the cuts are from a small group of vocal critics who have distorted and overblown the city’s financial position in light of a more than $50-million reserve.

“This city is not fiscally irresponsible with this budget that we’ve done,” said Councilman Frank Quintero, adding that the city just “needed to be as thrifty as we can.”

The council, over the course of several weeks worth of budget study sessions, worked with city officials to bridge the projected $9.9-million gap by finding additional revenue sources and cutting the equivalent of 5% from every city department.

Four weeks ago, Yousefian joined in congratulating his colleagues for settling on a plan to institute those cuts.

The adoption of the budget on Tuesday sets that plan into motion, including freezing about 40 vacant positions and eliminating others.

Fire Station 23 will see reduced staffing, several community policing programs will be eliminated and all libraries will see reduced hours and manpower.

A proposal to close the so-called underutilized Chevy Chase Branch Library may be altered after several on the council expressed strong interest in revisiting the plan following last-minute protests from neighbors.

“Your e-mails and thoughts did not go on deaf ears,” Councilman Ara Najarian said.

But any plans that the chorus of usual budget critics had to make one last stand on Tuesday against spending policies were blunted when Mayor John Drayman decided to forgo any more public input.

“The public has been heard and heard and heard and heard,” he said.

“I’m not hearing any new commentary.”

That left the sole voice of dissent to Yousefian, who railed against a June 19 article in the Glendale News-Press highlighting the parallel positions of him and frequent City Hall critic Barry Allen.

Yousefian was criticized by his colleagues last week when, a day after the councilman assailed higher employee costs brought on by union contracts, a full-page ad appeared in the News-Press listing city workers who made more than $100,000, plus overtime pay.

The advertisement promoted Yousefian for saying he would vote against pay raises, a major issue among critics assailing the proposed budget. Allen, who is also the founder of Vanguardians Inc., an organization that is in formation as a nonprofit 501(c)3, paid for the advertisement.

The two men strongly denied a political alliance, a position Yousefian repeated on Tuesday.

He instead said the paper was “making the news.”

Earlier in the day, the Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority approved their budgets for the next fiscal year at $26.19 million and $32.13 million, respectively. Both agencies include all of the council members.

The budgets take effect on Tuesday.

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