Week in review

CITY HALL

Severe drops in sales tax and other revenue for the city have created an $8.4-million budget gap this fiscal year, officials reported Tuesday, setting up a citywide hiring freeze and the elimination of 24 vacant positions.

In a special City Council budget session Tuesday morning, city officials said they would suspend the use of general-fund money to pay for road improvement projects or augment the capital-improvement budget, instead using funds generated by the state gas tax.

They also planned to pursue opening the city-owned Scholl Canyon Landfill to other cities to offset revenue loss there. Dump rates have dropped in recent months, with revenue down by about $230,000, city officials said. Opening the landfill up to outside agencies for the interim could make up the difference, they added.

Taken together with other cost-cutting measures, the plan was expected to generate $8.46 million in savings and additional revenue, enough to close the current gap.

The City Council also met in closed session Tuesday with the city’s four main employee unions to discuss their role in helping to shore up the city’s large budget shortfalls.

Even after the council closes the current gap, it must address a roughly $7.3-million shortfall projected for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

 The first batch of fundraising reports filed for the April 7 election showed the City Council’s three incumbents with a significant advantage over their challengers as they head into the main stretch of the campaign.

For the fundraising period that ended Dec. 31, Councilman Bob Yousefian had the most cash on hand with $70,938. His colleagues Ara Najarian and Frank Quintero claimed $70,341 and $58,785, respectively, for their reelection campaign accounts, according to statements filed at the city clerk’s office.

The campaign disclosure forms, which were due Monday, covered only candidates who had raised funds before Dec. 31.

Laura Friedman, a former Design Review Board chairwoman, reported $3,681 cash in hand at year’s end, while Vartan Gharpetian, who also headed a Design Review Board, claimed $19,729 for his campaign account, although both had raised more money since the start of the year.

Many challengers have only recently begun to ramp up their fundraising efforts and so were not included in the latest round of filings.

EDUCATION

Clark Magnet High School counselor Linda Doll has become accustomed to worried seniors asking about the growing costs of college tuition.

But a plan that was folded into the stimulus package recently passed by the House of Representatives might offer students hope during the nationwide slump.

The proposal would offer up to $2,500 in refundable tax credits to help students pay for college in exchange for 100 hours of public service, said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a cosponsor of the proposal before it was added into the stimulus package.

With the bill’s inclusion in the House stimulus package, students would still be eligible for the full amount, although it has now been reduced to $2,500, Schiff said.

 Contract negotiations resumed Wednesday between the Glendale Teachers Assn. and the Glendale Unified School District, a day after their leaders traded barbs related to union allegations of unlawful employment practices.

Union President Allen Freemon addressed the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday, claiming that teachers were ready to take legal action against the district for its employing too many temporary teachers before officials made a sudden decision last week to convert 164 temporary teachers toward permanent contracts.

Escalante defended the board Tuesday night, saying that the union’s case had not been tested in the courts and the district believed that its actions had been compliant with the law.

 Glendale Unified School District officials made a case Tuesday for supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most recent budget proposals, which would cut $8 million annually from the district over the next three years, but would also give it crucial flexibility.

Supt. Michael Escalante and Chief Business and Financial Officer Eva Rae Lueck gave presentations at a meeting of the Board of Education, advocating for a plan that would allow the district to freely use money from currently restricted state grants to help address budget shortfalls.

About 90% of the district’s $186-million unrestricted budget is allocated for paying salaries and benefits, Lueck said. Without provisions for freely using the district’s $85 million in restricted grants, also known as categorical funds, the district would have to resort to harmful cuts, possibly in classrooms, to be able to meet all of its financial obligations, she said.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Crimes of opportunity such as burglary and theft increased last year in the city, and police fear such crimes will continue to increase if the economy worsens.

Property crimes, including burglary, auto burglary, auto theft, grand theft, arson and petty theft, went from 3,676 in 2007 to 4,103 last year in Glendale, which is a 12% increase, according to the Glendale Police Department’s annual crime statistics. But violent crimes such as robbery and assault decreased from 375 in 2007 to 351 last year, a drop of 6%, according to the statistics.

The rise in property crimes is a reflection of the ongoing recession, said Capt. Ray Edey, who is in charge of the department’s investigative services division.

Burglaries jumped from 611 in 2007 to 708 last year, a 16% increase. Auto burglaries increased from 662 in 2007 to 723 last year, a 9% jump. Petty thefts went up from 1,266 in 2007 to 1,586 last year, a 25% increase.

While violent crimes decreased, some crimes, such as rape, increased within that category, according to the crime statistics.

 A motorist crashed into trash bins on a homeowner’s lawn Tuesday morning at the corner of Monterey and Verdugo roads, then plowed through a traffic signal box and slammed into another home’s front gate, where her car stopped, police said.

Homeowner Sharon Kennedy was looking out her kitchen window just after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when she heard the car crash into her trash bins. When she went outside, she saw her trash, including bills, scattered across her front lawn.

Rubina Ebrami was taking her 17-year-old son, Armen Nazaria, to Glendale High School when she lost control of her car and crashed, Armen said.

Neither was hurt in the accident.

SPORTS

The Glendale High girls’ basketball team picked up quite possibly its rarest victory of the season Monday.

The Nitros pulled out a 73-70 Pacific League victory against visiting Burroughs in triple overtime. It marked the first time this season that Glendale won a triple-overtime contest.

 Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s soccer team won its first Mission League championship in the program’s history Wednesday.

The Tologs, ranked No. 1 in the latest California Interscholastic Federation Division II poll, picked up a 5-0 league road win against Alemany.

League rival Harvard-Westlake suffered a 1-0 loss to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame giving the Tologs the league crown.

 Crescenta Valley High athlete Zack Torres chose his college destination Wednesday during letter of intent day.

Torres, a star cross-country and track and field runner, will attend UCLA in the fall.

Torres, who also plays on the Crescenta Valley baseball squad, is a three-time All-Area Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year pick and an All-American.

NOTABLE QUOTABLES

“It’s absolutely a losing proposition as far as I’m concerned.”

— Councilman Frank Quintero on the prospects of cutting deeper in the police and fire department budgets to help close citywide gap.

“Getting some rent is better than no rent.”

James Ward, chairman of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission, on the need to cut rental rates for the money-losing Civic Auditorium.

“We want to be able to tell anyone who wants to continue their education and has the determination and the grades to do it that their own personal finances shouldn’t be a barrier. As long as they’re able to support the community, the community will be able to support them.”

— Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, on a bill he co-sponsored that would give students up to $2,500 in refundable tax credits to pay for college if they committed 100 hours of public service. The proposal was included in the stimulus package recently passed by the House of Representatives.

“I worry for the country if we aren’t going to invest in the true infrastructure of our nation, which is education. It’s not roads and bridges, it’s people. So let’s invest in the kids that are going to make a difference for our future.”

— Glendale Unified School District Supt. Michael Escalante, explaining that the government’s stimulus package should direct large sums of money at education.

“They really are all winners when they get to this place. It’s a big deal.”

— Assistant Supt. Katherine Fundukian of students who competed in the 33rd Annual Elementary School Spelling Bee finals.

“We are preparing for the worst, but we are hoping for the best.”

— Glendale Police Capt. Ray Edey on the possibility of crime rising this year.

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