After years of deep budget cuts in Glendale, fiscal stability 'is on the horizon'

Having slashed the municipal workforce to its lowest level since the 1990s, Glendale has settled on a new $170.7-million General Fund budget to pay for everything from libraries to police and fire services.

After years of spending cuts induced by a protracted recession, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-14 is up $5.2 million, an increase that is partially due to the extra retirement costs of more than 100 early retirees, cost-of-living raises for members of the Glendale Fire Fighters Assn. and for assuming maintenance of traffic signals once paid for by Glendale Water & Power.

The City Council reviewed the proposed General Fund budget, which pays for most public services, at a hearing Tuesday night at City Hall, and after weeks of discussions, is expected to officially adopt the spending plan on June 25.

Officials initially had a $1.2 million deficit on their hands, but they were able to close the gap with a one-time payment from the California Department of Finance related to the wind down of local redevelopment operations.

Glendale now finds itself in a much different fiscal position than in years past.

Last June, the City Council had to close a $15.4 million budget gap, mostly through early retirements, layoffs and axing vacant positions. For next year, city officials plan to hire about nine employees, but at the same time, they will close 25 vacant positions in the Fire Department and Glendale Water & Power.

“We do believe fiscal stability is on the horizon,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

One of the biggest drains on the city’s pocketbook has been the rising cost of retirement benefits, which are set to increase even more in coming years as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, changes how it charges members.

According to Tuesday’s budget presentation, Glendale officials plan to maintain a defined-benefit plan, which means retirees are guaranteed a fixed pension when they retire. But to do so, the city may try to increase how much employees pay into their own retirement costs.

Currently, Glendale employees pay between 8.5% and 12.5% of their paychecks toward their retirement benefits. But changes to employee contributions are subject to negotiations with the unions.

Officials on Tuesday also discussed new fees, such as:

- $150 sidewalk dining fee, which was reduced from $650 after backlash from restaurant owners

- $25 permit parking fee, increased from $6 to be in line with a new fee for permit parking in South Glendale near the car dealerships

- $6 fee for lost or destroyed paperback books on loan from Glendale libraries

- $198 fee to setup smoking permitted areas in outdoor spaces at restaurants and new multi-unit buildings


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