CITY HALL — The City Council moved closer Thursday to approval of a budget plan that would eliminate numerous open positions and potentially require employees to take unpaid days off.
The proposed moves are necessitated by an estimated $9.7-million budget deficit, which has departments facing across-the-board cuts as high as 7.5%.
“We’re faced with challenges we’ve never been faced with before, at least in recent history,” City Manager Jim Starbird said at the beginning of the marathon City Council budget study session.
City Council members gave their tentative approval to cuts of less than 5% for the Police, Libraries and Planning departments, but looked to cut at least 5% from each of the remaining 11 departments.
The Police Department is already lean as a result of last year’s budget cuts, resulting in the elimination of seven sworn-officer positions and completely eliminated police presence in middle schools, Assistant Police Chief Ron De Pompa said while presenting the budget proposal. De Pompa will become interim police chief after Chief Randy Adams retires on July 10.
“We’ve cut into the muscle and bone of our budget and are getting ready to amputate,” Adams said, warning against further cuts. “Once you amputate, the damage is done, and it’s very difficult to repair.”
A full 5% cut this year would require laying off eight sworn officers, eliminating several professional and hourly staff positions, as well as many community-based services, De Pompa said. The council indicated it was not willing to endorse such cuts, noting De Pompa’s current position will not be filled.
Council members expressed hesitation about making any major decisions regarding the department’s budget before the results of next week’s negotiations between the city and the Glendale Police Officers Assn. On many occasions throughout the daylong session, council members urged the association to forgo pay raises for the next two years as the Fire Department agreed to.
“We still don’t have a clear idea of what’s going to happen with negotiations,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman said.
Previously discussed cuts to library hours are currently not a part of the preliminary budget. Approved changes would have minimal effect on library services, said Library Director Cindy Cleary.
The council did not preliminarily approve the elimination of a filled position in the Planning Department, which made up a large portion of its 5% cut.
“We’ve put a big load on your department, and there’s more on the way,” Mayor Frank Quintero said to Planning Director Hassan Haghani.
City staff presented the City Council with the possibility of temporary or mandatory furloughs. A mandatory furlough of all nonessential city employees could save about $158,000 per furloughed day, according to initial estimates. Both the state of California and the city of Los Angeles have recently initiated massive mandatory furlough programs.
Council members expressed interest in potentially initiating at least a temporary furlough program, but made no decision on the matter. The council will discuss the budget further at a special session Tuesday.
Starbird emphasized the city’s budget woes could increase as a result of the governor’s failed emergency ballot measures. He said the city will most likely have to loan $4 million to the state in addition to other potential cuts of state grant funding.
“We all know when the state braces for brutal cuts, we all have to run and hide for cover,” he said.