Officials ponders use of sales tax money

CITY HALL — City officials again are recommending that the City Council forgo setting aside sales tax revenue for public infrastructure improvements. Instead, they want that money used to help plug a projected $18-million budget deficit.

Much of the sales tax revenue that was used for capital improvements — everything from street maintenance to new park facilities — already has been diverted in recent years to the General Fund, which supports basic public services.

Last year, the City Council voted to divert 100% of city sales tax revenue to support General Fund operations amid continued budget deficits. In previous years, as much as one-half of all sales tax revenues were funneled into the capital improvement fund.

With capital improvement funds coming mostly from revenue generated by the city-owned Scholl Canyon Landfill, several big-ticket projects in the pipeline — including renovations at Central Library and artificial turf soccer fields at Columbus Elementary School — will be funded with proceeds from a $24.6-million redevelopment bond issued last year.

Some street maintenance is being paid for with local gas tax revenues, officials said.

City officials also detailed other planned projects, such as the long-awaited walkway along the Los Angeles River and South Glendale park upgrades, that also are relying on previously won grant-funding.

But with the once-robust fund used for infrastructure improvements on track to be essentially depleted by the end of next year, officials say, there will be little money available for new projects.

“I think in this era, and I think for many years to come, we are going to be stretched for operational dollars and be stretched for dollars just to maintain our existing infrastructure, let alone having the opportunity to build new,” City Manager Jim Starbird said Thursday.

In light of the $270-million school bond approved by Glendale voters in April, City Council members questioned whether the cost-sharing allocations for joint-use projects at local Glendale Unified schools — such as the new soccer field at Columbus and upgrades to tennis courts at Glendale High School — should be re-evaluated.

“They have funding now for capital projects,” said Mayor Laura Friedman. “We don’t.”

City officials also voiced the need to build up the capital funds in future years.

“I do think as the economy recovers, as we can find resources, we need to give a higher priority to then restoring what used to be some considerable resources to support our capital improvement program,” Starbird said.

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