Public shrugs at budget cuts

A proposed city budget that will slash millions in services and raise an assortment of fees to help bridge an $18-million shortfall prompted few people to address the City Council on Tuesday.

The relative silence came during a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed $170 million General Fund budget that pays for basic public services, including public safety, libraries and parks.

The City Council will vote next week on the budget after nearly 70 hours of meetings assessing line-item expenses for each of the city’s 11 departments as they attempted to fill an $18-million shortfall in the General Fund.

In three previous years of multi-million-dollar budget deficits, Glendale had narrowly avoided the layoffs and unpaid work furloughs seen in other public agencies throughout the state. But with more than 100 vacant positions already shaved from the books in recent years, this year’s budget could leave nine employees with pink slips.

“This was extremely difficult, time consuming, very hard, when you’re trying to eliminate $18 million,” said Councilman Dave Weaver.

City officials attribute the massive deficit to stagnant property and sales tax and construction-related revenues amid rising costs for employee health and pension costs.

In turn, the proposed General Fund budget includes more than $4 million in service cuts, much of which came from the Public Works and Community Service & Parks departments. The proposed cuts include the elimination of parks-sponsored family events, the city’s annual holiday tree lighting ceremony, all programming at Deukmejian Wilderness Park and workshops for at-risk youth.

The budget also factors in a slate of fee increases for public services, which city officials say could generate $1.3 million in additional revenue.

“It was disappointing to me personally that Community Services & Parks took such a hit in the budget, lost employees, lost a significant amount of their budget and that they were asked to come up with a way to justify and support expenditures,” said Jordan Harriman, president of the Jewel City JWV Little League, who spoke out against a proposed $5 “user fee” to help pay for lighting the city’s sports fields.

After hearing similar sentiments from other local youth sports team organizers, the City Council on Tuesday opted to hold off on implementing the fee.

The only other public opinions came from frequent city critics who again railed against salaries and retirement benefits for city employees as the source of the budget crunch.

“I’m tired of footing the bills for the city employees,” said former City Council candidate Mike Mohill.

City Council members countered that the budget will also affect city employees with other balancing strategies, including maintaining a hiring freeze for vacant positions and $3 million in employee salary and benefit concessions.

“Everyone is sharing the misery, including the employees,” said Mayor Laura Friedman. “It’s been very difficult and it’s going to be very painful for many people. But we have done everything we can to minimize the pain to the public.”

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