City Manager Stresses Measured Response to Avoid Layoffs

In its second study session on the forthcoming budget proposal, the City Council on Tuesday dove into the proposals outside of the general fund, which included a large reduction in enterprise expenses and modest increase in capital projects.
The City Council will wrap things up with a special meeting dedicated to Measure S-related projects on Tuesday morning, May 19. It begins at 9 a.m.
This past Tuesday, most of the city’s departments were shown to remain fairly stable heading into the new fiscal year, with City Manager Yasmin Beers emphasizing her focus on the ever-changing landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the budget is formally proposed in June, Beers said she plans to ask approval to dip into fund balances in order to avoid furloughs and layoffs for the city.
“I want to be very clear about that,” she said. “My recommendation to the City Council has been — since we started with this unfortunate timeline of COVID-related issues, uncharted territory — that we have to be extremely measured in the decisions that we make and not react to what may be happening around us.”
Beers added that the fund transfer would bring the balance to around 30% of a year’s expenditures, well within the guidelines set by the City Council. Still, Mayor Vrej Agajanian worried about the city being caught off-guard, especially after Santa Monica recently let go 227 of its employees.
The city manager noted that Santa Monica had at the time 2,300 full-time employees for not quite 100,000 residents, whereas Glendale has fewer than 1,600 such employees for a population exceeding 200,000.
“Having gone through a number of reductions throughout the years within the city of Glendale and having worked on scenarios already related to what that may look like, much of that information is in place for us to be able to react to it if necessary, so it’s not like we would be behind the eight-ball if we had to put those pieces together,” Beers said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already disrupted the current year’s sales tax projections and is expected to affect cash flow for the early part of next fiscal year because of sales tax deferments by businesses. Finance Director Michele Flynn also said last week that she expected sales tax revenues to return to what they were after five years.
“Boy, if there’s any rainy day, this is the rainy day that we’re all dealing with,” Beers said, referring to how fund balances are commonly characterized.
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said he nevertheless wanted information on what layoffs would look like so that, at minimum, the City Council could make the most informed decision on the budget.
“I don’t how bad the future is going to be. It may be a hailstorm. It may be a hurricane. Certainly we know that it’s not going to be what it was. The most recent unemployment figures show a very bleak picture,” he said. “We need to have all options on the table. It doesn’t mean we’ll take it, but we at least need to know what those figures are. In that regard, I think it’s a valuable exercise for us and for the city staff to take. If we’re asking everybody else to tighten their belts, we need to do our part as a city, because whether we have reserves or not, it’s ultimately the prerogative of the five people on the council serving at the pleasure of the voters to make that decision.”
In terms of capital projects, Councilman Dan Brotman wondered if now would be a good time to push through extra street projects because of lower traffic on account of the pandemic.
“I have to say, I did get an earful when I was going around campaigning about the state of our roads,” he said. “I get a sense that there may a backlog of repairs that we need to do and wonder whether there’s some way we can accelerate that given the opportunity we have now.”
Beers said there were around four projects that could have an accelerated timetable thanks to the pandemic’s few opportunities.

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