Glendale faces mass layoffs

Glendale may have to lay off as many as 210 city and utility employees — or 11% of the municipal workforce — as officials prepare to confront huge budget gaps predicted for the coming years.

Officials are projecting a $15.4-million budget gap for 2012-13 alone, prompting the heavy-handed cost-cutting measures.

The new layoff figure, broached during budget talks Tuesday at City Hall, is significantly higher than the 29 positions that had previously been disclosed. That's because the initial figure represented only jobs tied to redevelopment-related funding lost earlier this year to the state.

The city could also achieve the reduced ranks through early retirement incentives — a tool several City Council members have said they prefer. Ochoa said the number of city job cuts could differ greatly depending on which option the council chooses.

About 125 of the cut jobs would be among those tied to the General Fund — which pays for most public services, such as libraries, parks, police and firefighters — and another 85 at Glendale Water & Power, officials said.

The city's fire and police departments would be shielded from the layoffs, Ochoa said

The worst-case scenario cuts at Glendale Water & Power would come into play if the City Council does not approve an electricity rate increase, in addition to $35 million in water bonds and $60 million in electrical bonds, said General Manager Glenn Steiger.

If Glendale keeps operating as is, its General Fund expenditures are expected to hit nearly $200 million in 2016 — $30 million more than it's expected to take in. That's roughly double the budget gap projected for fiscal year 2012-13.

City Council members on Tuesday expressed shock at the dire budget projections.

“We should have seen these cards earlier on in the game,” Councilman Ara Najarian said, adding that attacking the problem sooner could have meant less “severe and draconian” budget cuts.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian pressed officials on when the city could get its spending on a “flat line.”

“You can't sustain expenditures, increasing expenditures, like this forever,” he said.

Next fiscal year, which begins July 1, will start that process, Ochoa said, but to get structurally balanced budgets over the long term, the council may have to make unpopular decisions, he added.

In March, city officials warned the loss of redevelopment funding in February due to a state mandate could prompt roughly 30 layoffs in the Community Development Department, which includes code enforcement officials and city planners.

The city could also increase fees or create new ones to boost revenues. Any move on taxes would need to be approved by voters.

Many of the suggested taxes, such as a business license tax and a transient parking tax, are already in play in neighboring cities, such as Pasadena and Burbank.

A business license tax could include a flat fee plus a per-employee charge. In Burbank the flat fee is $87; in Pasadena, the fee ranges from $145.86 to $388.95. The per-employee charge is $5.20 to $10.60 in Burbank, and $29.17 to $58.35 in Pasadena.

If similar fees were put in place for Glendale's 8,000 businesses and 80,000 employees, they could generate up to $4 million for the General Fund, according to a city report.

A transient parking tax could be added to fees at parking garages to generate up to $1.6 million annually. Burbank and Los Angeles have imposed a 12% and 10% tax, respectively.

Glendale already assesses a 10% hotel bed tax — or transient occupancy tax — that reaps $3 million each year.

A 1% bump could generate an additional $300,000, according to the city.

In order to generate another $3.9 million, officials are also considering increasing a tax imposed on all users of electricity, gas, water, telephone and cable services by up to 1%. The tax currently ranges from 6.5% to 7% depending on the use.

All the tax increases would require a simple majority voter approval, and the earliest they could be place on the ballot would be for the next municipal election in April 2013.

The next budget study session is scheduled for May 14 in City Council chambers.

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