City considers layoffs, shuttering skate park to close $15.4M budget gap

With the process of closing a $15.4-million budget gap winding its way through Glendale City Hall, even skateboarders may feel the pinch of deep spending cuts.

In addition to losing an expected 90 employees to retirement and the possibility of laying off a dozen more, the city may also close the Verdugo Skate Park on weekdays to save money, according to a proposal floated at City Hall this week.

“There are no easy reductions left at this time,” City Manager Scott Ochoa told the City Council Tuesday.

The council had to close an $18-million budget shortfall last fiscal year, leaving little fat to trim this time around.

Program reductions — such as shutting the skate park during the week, minimizing city-sponsored events and curbing police overtime — could save the city about $4.2 million.

The suggestions are what are left on the table after the City Council struck down other options, such as increasing business and parking taxes.

But several council members weren't keen on the proposal to shutter the skate park during the week.

“I would think we would need to reconsider that,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

She suggested slashing something else to keep the skate park open, at least through the summer. But Councilman Dave Weaver rebuffed that idea, contending people can skateboard in other parts of the city when the park is closed.

“Something has got to give,” he said.

About 30 to 40 people use the park each day, according to the city. City officials plan to present options to keep the park open through the summer at a future budget session meeting.

In addition to program cuts, the city expects to save about $8.9 million if it secures the 90 early retirements. So far, 55 employees have officially decided to take advantage of the option. The other 35 are a conservative estimate, Ochoa said. Of the 90 retirements, most are from the Community Development, Public Works and Community Services & Parks departments.

About 12 employees may also receive preliminary layoff notifications by next week, but officials won't know if those notices will lead to permanent terminations until after the window to apply for early retirement closes July 6.

Six other employees already received layoff notices in May due to the loss of the city's Redevelopment Agency, which paid for millions worth of salaries.

In response to a council inquiry, Ochoa said the city could offer employees at risk of being laid off the opportunity to take voluntary furloughs, but the feasibility of that happening would be known until after final retirement numbers are solidified.

The $15.4-million gap for next fiscal year consists of $7.7 million due to the redevelopment loss, $1.4 million triggered by automatic raises for employees — known as step increases — about $3 million to shore up workers compensation and liability funds, and other expenses.

In addition to General Fund issues, the city's utility also faces cuts. About 15 Glendale Water & Power employees plan to retire and 18 others may join them, according to a city report.

The city plans to continue to transfer about $21 million from the electrical side of the utility to the General Fund and cap capital improvement spending at $8.2 million, even though infrastructure needs outpace the available budget.

Glendale Water & Power raised water rates to chip away at a nearly $21-million deficit on the water side of the utility in March.

Later this month, the city plans to create an electric rate advisory committee as the first step toward possibly boosting electricity rates by September.

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