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Proposed Budget Calls for Higher Utility Tax, 11% Spending Hike

June 15, 1989|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

For a city known for its conservative spending habits, Glendale's 1989-90 budget introduced last week is somewhat atypical.

It calls for 61 new city employees as opposed to slightly more than a dozen last year and no more than five in the previous three years; the creation of a new city department--Neighborhood Services--for the first time in 20 years, and a utility tax increase for the first time in more than a decade.

The $243-million budget is 11% higher than last year, more than twice the increase in the Consumers Price Index (CPI). Finance Director Brian Butler said the city has traditionally limited budget increases to CPI-level raises.

These changes, city officials say, are the result of past slow-growth budgets and a dramatic increase in the city's population from 139,000 in 1980 to about 165,000 this year.

Influx of Immigrants

Among the newcomers are thousands of immigrants from Soviet Armenia, the Middle East and Mexico with little knowledge of the English language, creating an added demand for city outreach and education programs.

However, officials say the city will return to its pattern of approving conservative budgets next year--once the package of tough growth-control zoning ordinances under consideration becomes effective.

"This city is not known for its dynamic growth and new programs," Butler said. "It's an old, conservative city without major changes. After this year's growth spurt, we should expect a return to the days of controlled growth."

While members of the all-Republican City Council acknowledge that the city is in dire need of the changes introduced in this year's budget--and said they would approve most of them--their uneasiness with the size of the spending plan was evident during Monday's budget hearings.

Councilman Larry Zarian urged the city to return next year to CPI-level growth. Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg called the proposed creation of a Neighborhood Services Department "empire building" and said she would oppose it.

And Councilman Carl Raggio accused the Police Department of political opportunism for requesting an unprecedented 37 new police officers on the heels of a hotly contested municipal election in which public security emerged as a central issue.

Mayor Jerold Milner said Glendale is not about to become a "big brother, big spender" city government. "Absolutely not. We are going to maintain our long-standing fiscally conservative policies. I certainly do not anticipate a 10% to 11% increase next year."

"We can't govern forever by raising taxes and dipping into the city's reserves," Zarian said. "We run this city like a business. If we don't have money, we don't spend it. This year was the exception, but we are going to have to go back to running this city conservatively."

Request Criticized

Raggio was joined by Milner, Zarian and Bremberg in blasting the Police Department's request for added personnel.

"I was part of the election process," Raggio said, "and challengers coming out of nowhere were promising these huge increases in the police force, and now we get this request. We have to separate real need from election tactics."

Zarian added: "Last year, the Police Department requested two police officers and we give them six, and all of a sudden we have elections and people start talking about a big crisis and gangs and all that, and we get a request for 37 officers. If there was such a crisis, why didn't we hear about it before?"

"This is totally out of line," Bremberg said.

The Police Department request was praised by two residents who attended the hearing.

A member of the Glendale High School Parents Safety Committee who requested that her name not be used for fear of retaliation against her children said that "gang problems in the city are so grave that people are beginning to move out."

Gang Graffiti

Glendale anti-graffiti task force director Gene Blankenship also warned city officials that a serious gang problem is developing in Glendale.

"I can see it in the graffiti, in the people's fright," he said. "It's much cheaper to fight to stop the problem now than to fight it later unsuccessfully."

Blankenship added that Police Chief David J. Thompson is "a wise man and he doesn't ask for what he doesn't need."

City Manager David Ramsay has recommended adding 17 officers this year.

For her part, Bremberg said she is not convinced that the city needs "such in-depth social services," referring to creation of a Neighborhood Services Department. The office is designed to serve as a liaison between residents and other city departments.

"I'm not terribly interested in having new little empires at the expense of the the city's traditional programs, and I don't think we can afford this one. We're in the business of running cities," she said, "and neighborhood services--that's where I draw the line."

Raggio and Zarian, however, said they support the new program.

Freshman Councilman Dick Jutras would not comment on any of the budget proposals. "I'm new at this," he said. "I'm just learning the ropes."

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