BPOA PRESIDENT'S LETTER-BUDGET 2017/2018
May 12, 2017
Dear BPOA Members:
As you may or may not know, the city is currently engaged in the adoption of a new budget for fiscal year 2017/18. As part of the process, the Finance Services Director along with the City Manager also prepare a forecast to estimate expenses, looking forward five or more years.
In late March, the City Manager made a presentation at BPD to outline the current fiscal year budget, as well as the future financial outlook for the City. During that meeting, it was made very clear the City was experiencing a deficit, and future estimations indicate the deficit will increase substantially over time. During this meeting the City Manager estimated the deficit could increase to approximately eighteen million dollars annually by the 2021/22 budget year.
The primary cause for the deficit was attributed to the rising costs associated with the pensions of all city employees. I am summarizing, but the main cause for the dramatic increase in current cost is due in large part to the City’s decision to pay less than the employer’s normal contribution from 1999 to 2005. With fewer General Fund expenses, the City expanded services and other programs. In short, the money previously earmarked for the employer’s contribution payments to our pensions was spent on other programs/services.
Fast forward to 2017, and the City is now faced with the potential of a massive deficit, created in large part by their observance of the pension payment “holiday.” Unfortunately, the public will mostly associate the deficit and financial woes with the cost of our pensions and not the decisions made by our city leaders. The focus will lead to additional outcry for pension reform, and we will most likely see new efforts designed to bring forward propositions or initiatives to challenge our hard earned benefits.
The City Manager has discussed the proposition of a one percent increase in local sales tax during the 2018, mid-term election. The additional sales tax revenue generated by the increase will be used to pay for the unfunded pension liability, as well as needed repairs to our city’s infrastructure. If the sales tax increase is not approved by the city council for inclusion on the ballot, or if the ballot measure does not pass, drastic consequences associated with the budget deficit could follow.
In a recent article printed in the Burbank Leader, the looming budget deficit is discussed in great detail. The article described that one possible consequence of the deficit could be a 10 percent reduction to all city departments. These cuts could mean the city would lose 31 sworn police officers, one fire station, one library, five parks, and there exists the potential that 125 to 150 city employees would be laid-off.
On Tuesday (5/9), the BPOA Board learned for the first time that our Chief was requesting roughly $580,000 in funding for body worn cameras. The request also included and additional $420,000 annually for storage and management of the system. At the same time, we also learned there was a proposal being introduced to eliminate three firefighter positions.
From my standpoint as president, it did not make any sense that our Chief would be asking for such significant funding given the looming financial deficit, not to mention the proposed cuts to the fire department. I thought the actions by the Chief would be negatively interpreted by our fellow firefighters, and I wanted to ensure the BPOA sent a positive message that we stand with them in their efforts to prevent any cuts. To add, there is no identifiable need for the cameras, zero public demand for them, and no substantive justification for this expense has ever been articulated. There has, however, been significant public outcry for additional police services, due to rising crime and traffic problems in the city.
We are all aware that our Communications Center has been understaffed for quite some time. Strict limitations on who can be hired (as a cost savings measure) to backfill shift vacancies has mandated many of the communications operators to be force-hired to work on their days off. Apparently, the staffing crisis in the Communications Center was also overlooked in favor of the funds needed for the body worn cameras.
When we are discussing a potential reduction of up to 31 police officers or the elimination of any firefighter positions I believe there exists a much greater need for the use of these funds.
I chose to speak during the public comments period at the city council meeting on May 10, 2017. Present with me were Board members Aaron Kendrick, Tim Murphy, and Jennifer Diaz. I wanted to make certain that city council members understood our concerns. I am hopeful that our input will be taken into consideration as our City Council will soon be voting to pass the fiscal year 2017/18 budget. I also plan to attend the next meeting, which is scheduled for 5/16.
Following my comments last night, I was informed by a Board member that some of our newer officers have concerns about the uncertainty of their jobs, and inquired if they should lateral to another, more stable, agency. While I hope the City would never reduce our staffing, I simply cannot guarantee that could/would not happen. During the council meeting last night the City Manager said the budget situation for FY 2017/18 had improved. However, he also warned that we could be facing more significant issues within a year or two.
The BPOA Board of Directors supports our mission, our membership, and our community. We are committed to vigorously opposing any layoffs or reduction in personnel. The BPOA Board will fight for your needs and will do what we can to limit the potential for any negative consequences that any budget deficit could create.
Please be safe and keep up the good work.
Burbank Police Officers’ Association