First published in the June 18 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
With the budget being officially approved this week, Glendale has now joined the so-called “billion-dollar budget club” among U.S. municipalities.
The City Council approved a $1.096 billion budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year during its Tuesday meeting, representing a $123.84 million or 12.7% increase over the current year’s budget. The plan includes nearly $280.5 million in General Fund and Measure S expenditures and more than $44 million in capital-improvement spending.
This marked the first time Glendale’s budget has crossed $1 billion in spending, joining Los Angeles and Long Beach as the only cities in Los Angeles County to have passed that mark.
“It’s really not something we aspire to hit, but it shows that we are a big city, a billion-dollar municipal corporation and a very well-run municipal corporation,” City Manager Roubik Golanian said in an interview this week.
“I’m proud of the service that we provide to the community and I’m proud of what Glendale has become. We’re a premier city and businesses actively seek to be located or relocated in the city. I think that shows in our budget,” he added.
The council unanimously approved the budget, save for Mayor Ardy Kasskahian who was absent because he has COVID-19. Kassakhian told the News-Press he would have supported the budget had he attended.
The General Fund spending is offset by about $262 million in anticipated revenues, including $17.5 million from the Measure S sales tax. The city is projecting $75.46 million in property taxes — an increase by 3.1% — and $52.24 million in regular sales taxes, up by 2.5%.
Those revenue sources, like others, came with more modest expectations for the upcoming year as a result of rising interest rates, supply chain issues, inflation and, in the case of property taxes, an increase in housing inventory.
The General Fund gap is being closed with nearly $18 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, of 2021. This comes from Glendale’s pool of $43.5 million, which can be used for revenue loss replacement, various infrastructure programs, pandemic assistance programs and premium pay for employees as long as it is spent by the end of 2024.
“We will continue to be balanced for two additional years with the continued use of said funding,” said Jason Bradford, chief information officer for Glendale.
Councilman Dan Brotman said the budget “looks good,” and highlighted the ARPA funding and how the city can take advantage of it again next year.
“But the year after that,” he added, “things are going to be a lot tougher, so I just want the public to know that we’re feeling good now, but it’s not going to last, so we’re going to have to start really putting our heads together to figure out how we’re going to make it through.”
Golanian, during Tuesday’s meeting, said he was clear-headed about this reality.
“The budget team, deputy city managers and I have already started the conversation in regards to what we need to do and what we can potentially do to close that shortfall in two years from now,” he said. “It’s going to be here before we know it.”
Normal capital expenses for the year include $5.7 million for development of the Artsakh Entertainment District and $2.3 million for the South Verdugo Road rehabilitation. Measure S-funded capital projects include $8 million for affordable-housing land acquisition and $1.3 million in seismic upgrades to the city’s fire stations. Additionally, both sources combine to put $5.5 million toward re-turfing Fremont Park.
Councilwoman Paula Devine hailed the city’s estimated reserve fund balance, which accounts for 30.9% of expenditures.
“That’s very, very strong,” she said. “Most cities only have maybe 6%, 7 %, but we’re at 30%. That’s really to our benefit.”