In Depth:

Cities make joint efforts

Communities are being forced to get creative in the face of money woes.

May 15, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

DOWNTOWN — Faced with multimillion-dollar budget deficits brought on by spiraling revenues and escalating employee costs, Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena are considering consolidating a wide range of services and programs to save money.

Early discussions focus on the viability of joint police dispatch, consolidated technology services and achieving economies of scale by buying everything from paper clips to brake pads. Long-term ideas include a bus service linking the three cities.

The goal is to pull inspiration out of desperation, officials said, as they try to weather the worst recession since World War II.


Plans build on thriving joint operations that have saved the cities millions, such as Burbank’s Magnolia Power Plant, a police helicopter program and a regional communications center that serves 875,000 people over 134 square miles.

Even as they stress that the ideas are in their infancy, officials said it won’t be easy, as the concept of regionalizing services means a reduction in staff.

“I think we have tremendous relationships with Burbank and Pasadena and in the past we’ve had a number of areas where we’ve cooperated effectively,” Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird said. “There can be more areas, though. And in these times of budget pressure, there is enough critical mass to get over some of the organizational resistance that might arise.”

Budget woes

While each city faces unique budget challenges, the common thread is a gaping shortfall that must be filled by the start of the new fiscal year July 1.

Burbank officials have proposed freezing vacant positions, cutting back public services and raising some service rates to close a projected $5.8-million budget gap for 2010-11.

Officials there have grappled with budget reductions in six of the last eight years as revenues continue to lag behind the rising cost of salaries and benefits. Revenue from sales tax has also fallen over the last two years.

The state’s recent take of $16 million from the Burbank Redevelopment Agency, with the possibility of $3 million more next year, only compounds the headache.

In Glendale, officials are looking for $3 million in employee salary and benefit concessions as part of a strategy to balance a projected $8.1-million deficit.

The upcoming budget represents the third consecutive year that policymakers are forced to plug a significant shortfall.

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