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Pasadena In Focus
January - February 2011

Bracing for More Budget Cuts

In October dozens of Pasadena residents, business owners and other stakeholders provided their input on issues related to the municipal budget during a series of community workshops that were followed in November by a frank discussion by the Pasadena City Council in a public retreat setting.

The main topic of conversation: the most important service-level priorities for Pasadena, from libraries and community centers to parks and fire stations.

As a new year begins, we continue to face some of the most difficult budget decisions in Pasadena’s history. Due to the state budget crisis and the worst economy since the Great Depression, major revenue sources have fallen dramatically over the past few years, most significantly in the General Fund – the largest operating fund for providing basic city services including public safety and recreation. The current General Fund budget, at approximately $217 million, is at fiscal year 2006/07 levels. Sales tax revenues alone have decreased more than $7 million since 2008.

Conversely, since 2008, there has been a $6 million increase in debt, a $5 million increase in equipment and land purchases, increases in utility, fuel and personnel costs, and more. To address a serious structural deficit – the difference between revenues and expenditures – in the General Fund, millions of dollars have been cut from the budget, including many vacant employee positions.

Although the economy is gradually growing stronger, we still face growing pension costs. Based on the latest information received from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), our costs will exceed original estimates by more than $6 million over the next three years. In addition, depending on what is decided at a CalPERS board meeting scheduled in February, this amount could double.

Consequently, we must trim even more from the budget to meet the goal of eliminating the structural deficit in the General Fund by 2014. This may mean some layoffs as well as deferred maintenance in public rights of way. We are also looking at opportunities to eliminate duplication of services, increase efficiencies and improve customer service.

Do you have a bright idea for reducing expenses or increasing revenues? Let us know at www.cityofpasadena.net/budgetcomments 

Visit www.cityofpasadena.net/finance to learn more about the budget situation. For more information call 744-4355.