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Council to Consider More Than $8 Million in Budget Reductions


More than $8 million in potential spending cuts--ranging from elimination of police helicopters to closure of a branch library--will be considered Tuesday during the Glendale City Council's third budget review session.

In a series of straw votes during a second review session this week, the council tentatively eliminated one new sewage tax but endorsed other new residential and commercial fees and utility rate increases.

The council scheduled another study session at 8 a.m. Tuesday to review City Manager David Ramsay's list of $8.4 million in city programs and services that could be eliminated.

Earlier this month, three council members told Ramsay that they were displeased that his proposed 1990-91 budget called for a 9.3% increase in spending to pay for 41 new city positions, including 25 in the Police Department, cost-of-living raises for nearly 1,600 city employees and public works improvements.

To generate revenue to pay for the spending increases, Ramsay unveiled new tax and utility rate hike proposals. The council, however, demanded that Ramsey instead present a list of possible spending cuts.

The council is unlikely to approve all of the proposed cuts, but Mayor Larry Zarian said he favors significant curbs on new spending so the city can save money this year and avoid steep tax hikes next year.

"I think we can legitimately cut at least $1.5 million," he said. "If we can do more, I would not be averse to it."

Ramsay scheduled a public hearing at Tuesday's council meeting to precede adoption of the budget. If the council does not agree on a finance plan at that time, another special meeting will be called.

The proposed $266-million city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes operating expenditures for utility plants, refuse operations, parking lots, redevelopment programs and other services. These are financed by user fees, federal allocations or other outside sources.

In its reviews, the council has instead focused on reducing the proposed $79-million general fund, supported largely by local taxes, which pays for City Hall operations, public safety, parks, libraries and public works.

The council has not balked at a proposed 70% increase in residential sewer charges to pay for court-mandated improvements at the Hyperion treatment plant. The average homeowner, who now pays $8.60 a month for sewer service, would pay $14.60 with the increase.

During Tuesday's review session, the council rejected a staff proposal to add another 3% city fee to the sewer charge as a way to generate revenue.

In votes that were not always unanimous, the council endorsed other smaller new taxes and fee increases, including an increase of about $1 a month for basic cable television service. Electric and trash collection bills for the typical homeowner are each likely to increase about $1 a month. Water bills can be expected to rise about $2 a month.

The elimination of the 3% sewer tax reduced next year's anticipated income by $495,000. The mayor said spending on city programs and services should be cut by more than that to create a budget surplus.

"Just because the dollars are there, you don't need to spend it," Zarian said. "I'd rather see the savings stay there, and next year not have to increase the budget as much."

But Councilman Jerold Milner said he does not want to build a large surplus.

"I don't necessarily agree that it's better to get more money this year to fund things we may or may not want to do next year," he said. "We are not in the kind of business where it's critical to collect more money than we need."

During the first budget review session, Milner called for up to $6 million in cuts. But he acknowledged this week that the reduction is likely to be less.

"The big number that I talked about was to get everybody's attention, quite frankly," he said. "It's not going to be $6 million, but hopefully, it will help people understand that this was not a rubber-stamp approval of the budget, but that it was looked at very closely."

Some of the potential budget reductions that will be considered by the council next week would:

* Eliminate one firetruck company to save $974,185;

* Eliminate $580,000 in overtime pay that maintains staffing levels when firefighters are ill or on vacations;

* Halt the hiring of 25 new police employees at a cost of $1.8 million;

* Cut the Glendale Galleria police detail in half to save $260,000;

* Eliminate police helicopter patrols to save $843,150; cut animal control services in half to save $190,000; reduce street tree maintenance by half to save $642,624;

* Reduce sidewalk repairs by 25% to save $250,000;

* Decrease the frequency of park maintenance to save $389,000;

* Reduce city building maintenance by 50% to save $260,000;

* Close the Chevy Chase branch library to save $91,000.

Also, the council will consider smaller cutbacks, such as a library technician ($13,000), an after-school youth program at Carr Park ($21,000) or a street crack-sealing program ($29,000).

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