Glendale City Council members worked intensely at setting priorities for the city during a three-day retreat last week, then learned in the final session Saturday that the city lacks the funds to meet all of their goals.
Finance Director Brian Butler warned that projects planned during the next five years--including relocation and improvement of fire stations, street and traffic modifications, renovation of the Glendale Civic Auditorium, preservation of the Alex Theatre and expansion of the Galleria shopping mall--exceed expected revenue by more than $22 million.
"There's no way we are going to be able to do all of those things. . . . You people are confronting some real decisions," Butler told the five-member council during its second annual work furlough at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort Hotel in Oxnard.
Councilman Larry Zarian said the warning was "the first time in my six years on the City Council that I've heard this type of conversation. Until now, we've always heard that we have plenty of money."
Glendale has long prided itself on its pay-as-you-go capital improvement program. It is one of only a few cities in California that has no bonded indebtedness against its general fund. But Butler said Saturday that the city will have to trim its priorities or consider going into debt.
"Glendale is not the same sleepy community it used to be," said Butler, who has managed the city's money for 12 years. He said the balance in the unallocated capital improvement fund has plummeted from $24.5 million in 1985 to $8.4 million today, largely because of massive public works projects that the city has undertaken to keep up with rapid growth and redevelopment.
The city expects to earn about $99 million over the next five years from sales, gas and utility taxes as well as operational profits from the Scholl Canyon Landfill, but already has earmarked $122 million in expenditures, Butler said.
In addition, the city has been hit with increased liability claims--more than $2 million in the last year alone. Claims had typically cost only $50,000 to $100,000 a year, Butler said.
"I see more of that coming," said Butler, who suggested that the city at least double its annual allocation to its self-insured general liability fund.
The future's financial constraints provided a sobering end to the three-day retreat in which council members attempted to deal with the problems of redevelopment, housing, transportation, waste management and planning.
The retreat, which cost taxpayers $3,200 to $3,800, was called so that council members could meet with city department heads to discuss programs in detail without interruptions or phone calls, said Robert McFall, assistant city manager.
While the resulting priority list is lengthy, the council will have to trim it to fit the city's $223-million annual budget. A study session to do that is expected to be held early next year.
One of the city's most ambitious projects calls for further expansion of the Galleria shopping mall, now proposed to extend south from Harvard Street to Colorado Street between Central Avenue and Brand Boulevard.
Jeanne Armstrong, redevelopment director, said the city has begun negotiations with Nordstrom, which plans to relocate from the Galleria II to a larger store in the proposed Galleria III, and with Macy's, which has expressed interest in opening a Bullock's in Glendale.
Any expansion of the shopping mall would require the city to relocate the central fire station, a main storm drain and other utilities serving the downtown area--a major undertaking in time and expense, said George Miller, public works director.
Despite the project's complexity, city officials said, retail sales growth is vital to increasing and protecting revenues that support the increasing cost of providing services to a booming population.
"Residential growth costs us money; economic growth is our life blood," said City Manager David Ramsay.
Managing residential growth is a priority among council members, who have been working for the past year to curtail rapid development of apartments and condominiums. Officials are studying ways to cap development in at least some areas but warned that their plans may not be legal.
The city, which last week renewed a year-old moratorium blocking new multifamily development, hired a legal firm this month to help draft an ordinance to control growth, said James Glazer, principal planner.
Building caps have typically been upheld by the courts only if a city lacks water, sewers or other utilities to support growth, he said. Glendale has planned so well for the future that those legal requirements might not apply, Glazer said.
But curtailment of development could be justified because of crowded schools, traffic congestion and lack of adequate street parking, officials said. A study session on the issue is expected to be held in November.