Can Glendale Balance Its Budget by Increasing Revenues While Keeping Costs out of Control?
According to the Glendale’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report “Costs continue to outpace any growth seen in major revenues such as property and sales tax and while these categories may not be declining and even increase as was the case this past fiscal year, increases in pension costs and other employee benefits continued to exceed revenue gains…It is uncertain that these (cost) increases will be sustainable over the foreseeable future .”
In simple terms one can not balance one’s personal budget by generating more income when one keeps on spending more than one is making.
Over the past 12 years Glendale’s population decreased. Yet, Police and Fire expenditures had an almost exponential growth over the same period (see chart). One might think that this expenditure increase was directly related to a decrease in safety across the country, but crime statistics indicate that the U.S. is a safer place now than 20 years ago. Furthermore, comparable statistics with the City of Rancho Cucamonga , a city with a population similar to Glendale (170,000 people), show a disturbing trend. Police expenditure in Rancho Cucamonga shows a 65% increase while police expenditure over the same period in Glendale shows an increase of 148%. However what is more disturbing is that population in Rancho Cucamonga increased by 33% while population in Glendale decreased. Yes, our safety expenditure continues to increase despite the population decline.
What specific items demanded such a huge increase in Glendale’s police budget?
In regards to the Fire budget, structure fires account for about 1% of fire emergency calls yet the budget of the fire department is three times higher now ($57Mil. vs. $17Mill.) than in 2000. The seemingly fussy building regulations and fire resistant materials in household items have made the city especially fire-safe. Furthermore, Fire safety requirements have increased construction cost due to sprinkler systems and monitored fired alarm systems. Yet, the citizens of Glendale have not seen any return on those investments.
Mostly firefighters provide routine emergency treatment, 32,702 calls or 88% deal with chest pain, falls, trouble breathing, mental illness, hearth failure, and so on. Furthermore, city firefighters don’t really fight wildfires. The most they’ll ever do is make sure flames don’t spread to houses. Far more specialized units contain wildfire blazes.
Being that the case, the intense training of firefighters does not serve its primary purpose, yet it limits women and minority participation. If most of their time is spent doing emergency medical work and shuttling people to hospitals, why does a good portion of their budget go for activities that compromise just a small amount of their time?
Finally, our next door neighbor, Burbank, had a 3% increase in population and their fire budget augmented a whopping 77% (2001-2012) seriously impacting their city budget , yet their increase is pale when compared to Glendale’s Fire expenditure of 300% over the same period.
What specific situations have caused the fire budget to increase a threefold ($17Mil. in 2000 vs. $57Mil. in 2012) over the last 12 years while the population decreased?
It doesn’t look like City Management with the oversight of City Council has done its job of keeping a balanced budget during this century. In fact the balancing of the budget has only occurred due to increase in fees and revenue that comes directly from the citizens such as the increase in utility rates. Furthermore, the continuous increase in utility rates is just helping perpetuate a dangerously out of control balance. Both upper City Management and Council Members are ignoring the advice of those that were asked to watch the city’s finances, this to the detriment of residents who have to come up with the income shortfall.
- CITY OF GLENDALE CAFR Year 2012, Management’s Discussion and Analysis
- CITY OF RANCHO CUCAMONGA CAFR , years 2000-12
- BURBANK CAFR, years 2001-12