"We try to keep balance with recurring balances and expenses," said Financial Services Director Cindy Giraldo. "But it is typical in this economic climate to use these one-time funds to close the budget gap."
Other cities have imposed pay cuts and frozen their own employee bonus programs as they too struggled with their deficits. And some, including Glendale, have suspended their bonus programs altogether, citing the poor economic climate.
Despite the recession and its impact on revenues, Burbank continues to budget anywhere from 2.5% to 6% of the total pay to members of some unions for the bonuses — a structure that is negotiated into their contracts.
City officials declined to provide information on how much bonus pay went to which worker, or even a certain job classification, last year, citing personnel confidentiality rules. Instead, officials provided only lump sums paid to each employee group — and only for fiscal year 2009-10.
In declining a public records request by the Burbank Leader, the city attorney's office argued that the disclosure would violate workplace privacy protections.
"Given that the merit pay awards are directly related to an employee's performance, we believe that disclosing the actual individual amounts would violate the privacy rights of individuals relating to their performance or lack thereof," said Juli C. Scott, chief assistant city attorney, in the response letter.
The city's stance appeared to differ greatly from Glendale, which last week posted detailed information on the $1 million in bonuses paid over eight years to mid-level and top executives.