Amid Budget Woes, Burbank Facing a “Dystopian” Future

There are tough decisions -- and tough times -- ahead for the City of Burbank in Los Angeles County.

When the budget was approved in June, [Financial Services Director Cindy Giraldo] said the deficit for the 2017-18 fiscal year would be about $1 million. However, in light of a recent court decision, Burbank could be facing a roughly $10.8-million shortfall.

Additionally, the forecasted deficit during the 2022-23 fiscal year was originally projected at about $16.6 million, but Giraldo said that it has now ballooned to about $27.4 million.

That deficit, rising retirement costs, and about $588 million in unfunded infrastructure improvements has left the city with no good options. As a result, residents could soon see drastic cuts to public services, higher taxes or both.

Some of those choices were laid out for council members during a study session on the budget Thursday. They include the closure of two fire stations and the central library; contracting out the city’s jail, animal shelter and parking control services; elimination of crossing guards and school resource officers; ending the meal delivery program, the Workforce Connection program, the BurbankBus program, and reducing senior services; shutting down youth and after school programs; the closure of 14 parks and city facilities; reducing tree pruning schedules; and/or having employees cover more of their pension costs.

Again, no good options.

“When I look through these lists of proposals, the word that came to mind for me was dystopian,” said Mayor Will Rogers. “Would Burbankers appreciate this or miss that? I thought throughout this list that it would affect significant amounts of people … It would be a dystopian Burbank.”

Burbank’s precarious financial position emerged after a June lawsuit filed by Burbank resident Christopher Spencer. By transferring a percentage of funds from the city’s utility to its General Fund, the city is violating Proposition 26, Spencer argues.

It has been a tough year for Burbank all around. Last month, Mayor Rogers announced he is suffering from Stage IV liver cancer. He has chosen to stay on until further notice.