Proposed cuts to Burbank services could lead to ‘dystopian’ future, officials say

by | Jun 25, 2019 | News | 1 comment

By ANTHONY CLARK CARPIO, for the Burbank Leader


Burbank City Council discussion on Thursday included some of the ways the city can reduce the sting of the forecasted budget deficit. (File photo) For about a year, Burbank City Council members have been preparing for some tough decisions they will need to make to try to address forecasted budget deficits over the next five years. Those difficult choices — including proposed deep cuts to city services, the introduction of new taxes or a combination of both — were put in front of council members Thursday evening during a study session on the budget in the Community Services Building.

The sobering news did not end there. Before talking about suggested possible fixes to the budget, Cindy Giraldo, the city’s financial services director, told council members and residents in a packed council chambers that this year’s forecasted deficit is larger than what was originally expected. When the budget was approved in June, Giraldo said the deficit for the 2017-18 fiscal year would be about $1 million. However, in light of a recent court decision, Burbank could be facing a roughly $10.8-million shortfall.

Additionally, the forecasted deficit during the 2022-23 fiscal year was originally projected at about $16.6 million, but Giraldo said that it has now ballooned to about $27.4 million. The unanticipated spike in the deficit forecast is due to a lawsuit filed on June 27, 2016, by Burbank resident Christopher Spencer against the city, in which Spencer alleged the city is violating Proposition 26 by transferring a percentage of funds from the city’s utility to its General Fund. On Sept. 12, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel ruled that a provision in Burbank’s city charter that allows the city to transfer those funds violates Proposition 26, which was approved in 2010 to try to prevent hidden taxes.

Burbank was expected to generate about $12 million from that revenue source during this fiscal year, but Giraldo said the city will not be moving over those funds to the General Fund in light of the court ruling. City Atty. Amy Albano added that, although Strobel made a ruling last month, there will be a hearing on Nov. 16 when a final decision and legal remedy will be issued.

Additionally, Giraldo told council members that the city has about $588 million in unfunded infrastructure improvements. If Burbank wants to address 75% of those needs over the next 25 years, it will need to allocate about $22 million annually to do so.

In order to address the growing deficit, Giraldo presented several proposed options from which council members can choose in order to save or generate money for the city.

Burbank could save about $3.5 million per year if officials choose to close down fire stations 14 and 16 and about $12 million annually if council members opt to contract out the city’s jail program, animal shelter services

and parking control and eliminate crossing guards, air support, school resource officers and 39 sworn officers from the Burbank Police Department. Councilman Bob Frutos said he was adamant about not making any cuts to public safety services the city currently offers, adding that the city needs to change how it spends its money.

“We just have way too many expenditures, and the current revenue is just not supporting our expenditures,” he said.

The city could save up to $7.5 million annually in the Parks and Recreation Department if officials end the city’s home-delivered meals program, reduce senior services, prune trees every eight years, close 14 parks and city facilities, eliminate various youth and adult programs, end its day camp and after-school programs, eliminate funding for the Family Service Agency’s school counseling and Boys & Girls Club of Burbank’s after-school care program and end all city-sponsored