Tag Archives: City of Burbank

First Year Successes and Goals Analyzed in Measure P

In November 2018, Burbank voters approved Measure P, which increased the City’s sales tax from 9.50% to 10.25%.  That increase took effect on April 1, 2019, and is on track to generate about $20 million per year in additional sales tax revenue.

Before Burbank voters went to the ballot, the City Council promised that it would use the additional $20 million per year to solve two major General Fund problems: deferred capital maintenance and a looming operating deficit related to pension liabilities. 

The City’s making good on its promises.

Several Council policies were put in place shortly after Measure P’s passage.  These include:

  • At least half of all annual Measure P revenues, some $10+ million, goes toward needed infrastructure improvements. The City is now in a position to overcome its backlog of street paving projects and keep Burbank’s streets in good condition going forward, as well as to make additional deferred maintenance improvements to the City’s capital infrastructure. 
  • The City and its employees will evenly share in the on-going annual pension cost.
  • At year-end, any General Fund balance in excess of 6% of the General Fund’s budgeted recurring appropriations will be used to fund employee pension liabilities. This annual funding commitment will be required if employee pension benefits are less than 90% funded and the pension funding commitment does not cause the General Fund balance to decline below $10 million.

The watchdogs are also in place.  In keeping with its promises to Measure P supporters, the City Council established oversight for the use of Measure P revenues; specifically by:

  • Creating a new Infrastructure Oversight Board (IOB) appointed by the City Council that includes City residents. Their responsibilities include, at a minimum, the annual review of proposed infrastructure spending as well as the status of funded projects. 
  • Expanding the responsibilities for the existing Retirement Plans Committee to include at least an annual review of the City’s pension funding and benefits.
  • Expanding the responsibilities for the Audit Committee to make sure, among other things, that all Measure P proceeds are used in the City of Burbank.
  • Two City Council members selected each year will act as liaisons to the Infrastructure Oversight Board. Currently, these are Mayor Gabel-Luddy and Vice Mayor Springer.

So with the policy and administrative machinery now in place, what has the City accomplished?

Streets are being repaved; with the backlog begin decreasing in FY 28/29 with the current $8.0M recurring budget.

A long-term street pavement plan, aimed at improving and then sustaining the quality of Burbank streets currently requires $8.0 million per year.  Before Measure P, there had been varying amounts allocated to street paving that ranged between $3.0 to $5.0 million annually with a portion of this coming from SB1 revenues.  Now, with Measure P in place, the City is able to achieve the annual $8 million funding requirement.

Using these funds, the Public Works Department recently finished their largest local/residential paving project the City has ever embarked upon. They have more than doubled the annual paving schedule, which now includes 180 local and residential streets along with arterial City blocks, as well as upgrading about 100 curb ramps. The City is diverting approximately 150,000 discarded tires from landfills using rubberized asphalt, which is also quieter and more durable.

Public Works has developed a paving schedule so that Burbank streets are repaved and maintained much more frequently, and therefore at significantly lower overall cost..  A street’s life expectancy is based on a variety of factors including age, traffic loads and volumes, construction materials, climate, and previous maintenance.  For example, a main arterial street receives much more wear and tear than a residential street due to heavier loads and greater volumes of vehicles, and therefore will usually need more frequent maintenance

About $7.5 million in annual Measure P funds are available for other capital purposes, including major deferred maintenance. With more a than $400 million deficit in infrastructure maintenance, it will take a while to catch up. 

The City is currently prioritizing Measure P dollars on deferred maintenance of high demand and critical City infrastructure.  Besides street pavement, this includes traffic systems, building roofs, fencing, playground equipment, and irrigation systems.  The City will also leverage the use of external revenue sources like grants and restricted revenues whenever possible.

Over time, the City plans to accumulate funds with the aim of meeting community demands for some larger scale renovations and capital improvement projects. The IOB will play a critical advisory role in determining City’s infrastructure funding priorities. 

Additionally, the City has one outstanding General Fund bond issuance that ends four years from now, in FY 2022/23. About $2.3 million per year is needed to service these bonds; but after FY2022/23, these dollars could be available for pay-as-you-go funding or for helping to service the debt of a new bond issue.

Perhaps the best ongoing service the IOB can render to the public is helping to make sure that capital projects are completed within budget and on schedule.  Cost overruns can undo the best funding plans, as nightmares like California’s “bullet train” and Boston’s “big dig” attest.  The IOB can help forestall local project disasters by requiring that staff’s capital project proposals demonstrate project management competence, and by reviewing procurement and bidding procedures.  By 2022/23, when the opportunity to finance major building projects will be better, both the IOB and staff will have hopefully developed the “muscle” to undertake these projects with confidence.

The City has a better chance to avoid future retirement funding crises but will need to be diligent in their spending.

For Measure P to be effective over the long term, the General Fund operating deficit must be addressed.  To accomplish this, the City must make good on sustaining $9.0 million in ongoing annual savings.  So far, the City has achieved $7.4 million in annual savings by:

  • Adopting targeted fees. Annual revenues so far: $2.0 million, even with the PASS program subsidy.
  • Paying salaries that are relevant to Burbank’s market and no higher than what is necessary to be competitive. Annual savings: $2.0 million.
  • Reducing the amount due to the CalPERS Liability each year by paying at the beginning of each fiscal year. Annual savings: $0.9 million.
  • Reducing workers compensation claim expenses. Annual savings: $2.5 million annually. Reducing claim expenses by $2.5 million–$1.3 million more than originally projected–is an instance of very successful cooperation between labor and management.

Most importantly, none of these cost-saving measures reduce the scope or quality of services to Burbank citizens and businesses. 

A more challenging arena of cooperation is getting all employees to contribute 50% of their pension costs, which would save $3.7 million per year.  As one of their cost-saving priorities, City Council approved a policy that all labor pays 50% of their pension costs.  (New hires contribute 50% of their pension costs pursuant to state law.)   The City has been making strides in this area.  The Burbank Management Association, and Burbank Police Officers’ Association recently approved contracts that will move them toward paying their half in the coming years and the City is currently negotiating with Burbank Fire Fighters and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. 

If the $3.7 million per year in savings were achieved, this would result in a total operating savings of $11.1 million, $2.1 million more than the $9.0 million target.  In view of the progress made so far, the City seems on track to making good on its commitment to generate long-term significant savings that don’t come at the expense of resident services.

The City is also making efforts to keep inflation from eroding its operating savings. 

As a result, the City has had no need to dip into its $33 million emergency fund, and has instead generated about $32 million in spendable surpluses; some of this money was generated from the hiring freeze put in place prior to Measure P and then released after voters passed Measure P.  Based on the City’s pension funding policy, this General Fund balance will ultimately help the City reduce its outstanding unfunded pension liability.

Retirement systems throughout the U.S. have been taken to task for overoptimistic projections, achievable—if at all–only by resorting to riskier investments that are subject to volatile market swings. As such, CalPERS has lowered its projected returns on investment from 7.5% to 7.0%, phased in over the next three years, beginning in FY 2019-20. For every 1% that CalPERS reduces the discount rate, the city’s annual cost increases by approximately 7%, highlighting the benefit of the 50/50 employee cost share policy.  Sharing in the costs reduces the City’s impact to 3.5% or half of the approximate increase.  As a result, the City and employees must contribute more to ensure that the retirement funds stays viable.

Besides City and employee contributions to CalPERS, increasing the actual rates of return on invested funds is another possible way to meet future retirement costs.

This coming year, City Council will consider placing funds into a 115 Trust Fund dedicated toward meeting pension obligations. By establishing this Trust the City hopes to put itself in a better position to absorb future pension cost volatility caused either by economic downturns or new CalPERS changes.

With all of these changes, the City’s financial future is healthier than the dire forecast prior to these adjustments.  The additional revenue along with cost savings has placed the city in the black for its 5-year future budget forecast, but barely. Pre-paying pension liability will certainly help; however, if CalPERS makes additional changes in their projected returns or City Council overspends, this can quickly change.

 It’s up to all of us—citizens and  watchdog committees alike–to help keep the City in check.                                           

Announcing the 2019 Return of The Rink in Downtown Burbank and Holiday Festivities

Downtown Burbank’s most festive holiday tradition for outdoor ice skating and special performances, The Rink in Downtown Burbank, returns from December 12th, 2019 through January 5th, 2020. Transforming the corner of N Third Street and E Orange Grove Avenue into a magical winter wonderland for skaters of all ages, The Rink is a great way to celebrate the holidays!

The Rink will be open Sunday thru Thursday from 10:00am – 10:00pm, and Friday and Saturday from 10:00am – 11:00pm. Admission is $12, skate rentals are $5, and ‘Bobby the Seal’ skate-aid rentals are $8. For even more fun, the Rink is just steps away from hundreds of shops and restaurants decked out for the holiday season, including a festive 36-foot-tallwalk-thru holiday tree, making Downtown Burbank a holiday wonderland. Other special Downtown Burbank holiday festivities include:

  • The Mayor’s Tree Lighting – Saturday, December 7th 6:00pm on the steps of City Hall at 275 E Olive Avenue
  • Breakfast with Santa – Saturday, December 14th 8:30am – 10:00am. Enjoy breakfast with Santa, holiday music, crafts, and fun at the Burbank Town Center. Tickets are $13 each, call 818-238-5435 to purchase a ticket or for more information.
  • Learn to Ice Skate – Classes taught by Pickwick Ice Center instructors are available on Saturdays for $25, lessons include skate rental and skate session entry.
  • Learn to Curl – With Hollywood Curling on December 15th and January 5th, admission is $20.

Also, on Saturdays from 8:00am to 12:30pm, be sure to visit Downtown Burbank’s Farmer’s Market located across the street from The Rink, behind the Community Services Building.

Free parking is available at several structures and lots in Downtown Burbank.

For further information, call (818) 238-5180, or visit www.DTNBUR.com

Mayor’s Tree Lighting Jump Starts Burbank Holiday Spirit

Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, along with some very special guests, welcomed City residents to kick off the holiday season with the annual Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting on Saturday, December 7, on the steps of City Hall.

Gabel-Luddy was joined onstage by fellow City Councilmembers Jess Talamantes, Bob Frutos, Sharon Springer and Tim Murphy, along with State Senator Anthony Portantino’s rep Arda Tchakian, and special guest Congressman Adam Schiff.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The night featured musical performances by a capella group Muses from John Burroughs High School and dance performances in the spirit of the season by RC Dance Studio and Garri Dance Studio.

Gabel-Luddy said, “Burbank is one of my favorite places to be, and I am so happy to be at such a great event again this year.”

One of Burbank’s official sponsors, Disney Studios, sent out Minnie and Mickey Mouse, who arrived in an authentic 1960’s Mustang to make the whole holiday experience even more cheerful. A few minutes later, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrived on a fire truck and then walked down the red carpet to the stage to greet everyone.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Finally, it was time to light the tree. Suspense was building up, and then all of a sudden, everyone in attendance cheered when the light of the tree glistened in the night sky.

Santa and Mrs. Claus stayed on site until 8:00 p.m. to hear young children’s Christmas wishes.

Woody Martin, a local resident, said “In my opinion this was an amazing Christmas time event, the entertainment was very good. There is only one thing I would like to see next year and that is a bigger tree.”

Holiday in the Park Once Again a Festive Event

As winter starts to close in, more and more festive events take place, one of which being Burbank’s annual Holiday In The Park. This year marked the 31st year of this event, making it one of Burbank’s longest-standing holiday traditions.

From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Magnolia Blvd. was shut down from Hollywood Way to Florence Street., filling the streets with holiday festive activities, music, food, vintage cars, and vendors and plenty of people. 

The South Hills Church was by far one of the biggest vendors with bouncy houses, photo booths, and fun kid-friendly activities. Deryck Artero, a member of the South Hills Church, said that “The reason South Hills joins this event is that we are all about loving the 818, seeing our community thrive, and giving back to the community.” 

As night fell upon the event there was fabulous live music and performances including by Garri Dance Studio, Aspen Wood (@aspenwoodofficial), The Mexican Azteca Dance Group (@mexico_azteca_burbank), School Of Rock (@schoolofrockburbank), bringing much holiday spirit and joy to the event.

In addition, Burbank’s own Police Dept. came out to show kids safety tips, let them go inside their cars and handed out mini cadet stickers. Restaurants were open as well as food trucks Like Cousins Maine Lobster, Taste of Italy, Monte Carlos and way more!

There were many vendors who also lined the street from Burbank’s Little League Baseball Program to World Vision, an organization that specializes in supplying kids in different countries with freshwater.

Mary Brooks a long-time resident of Burbank said that “In my opinion this year was the largest crowd I have seen since I have been coming to Holiday In The Park” She also added, “Everything was way more organized than in past year which is so amazing.”

All in all, Holiday In The Park was a great way to start the holiday season. Thanks to everyone who made this event possible, and on behalf of myBurbank we want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season!

 

 

 

Mayor Very Optimistic During State of the City Address

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Every year, Burbank’s Chamber of Commerce holds the State of the City Address and 2019 saw a packed house at the Burbank Airport Marriott Conference Room Wednesday morning. Just about every leader in the City, both public and private was in attendance to hear about Burbank’s direction.

This was the second ‘official’ time for Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy with a third time being when she pinch-hit for an ailing Will Rogers. She was fully prepared and confident saying when asked what she wanted people to get out of this year’s presentation., “I would like people to redouble their pride in the city of Burbank which is a world-class city and I want to tell that story today. We have really lifted ourselves up in a way that us at the head of any city in this country so I want people to walk away feeling proud that Burbank is a world-class city.”

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

When asked about all the new projects and construction in the City, Gabel-Luddy responded, “All of it is to the good. Besides Disney and Warner Bros., Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, we now have Netflix coming and that was announced this week.”

There is also some concern, “We can’t forget about the people who are less fortunate than any of us, but that we have the engine and the power as an integrated media center to really develop the City to greater jobs, higher-level investment in our infrastructure and higher-level investment in our city services like police and fire.”

As for the future though, the Mayor seemed genuinely enthusiastic, ” As extraordinary as the burgeoning visitor industry here in the community of Burbank that we have more hotel rooms coming online, Warner Bros. will be developing their Second Century Project shortly with the Frank Gehry designed buildings so, besides the median synergies that are going on, there is iconic architecture that going to be built. We are going to have improvements in our transit and we are looking to get more housing in our community and at the same time we are not going to forget the people who are not as well off as any one of us is today.”

Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO, Tom Flavin, was very direct when asked about his opinion on the day ahead. “Optimism about the future”. He feels it is important for the Chamber to be involved with the speech every year. “This is important to us and our members because it (State of the City) underscores our partnership with the city”

During her speech after lunch, Gabel-Luddy spoke to the assembled as she touted much of Burbank’s present saying over 2,00o film permits were granted this year which does not count what happens behind studio walls.

She also spoke about the impacts of passing Measures T and P, and the effect it has had already on the City, “Your Measure P funds are already hard at work. Our Public Works Department just finished its largest local/residential paving project the City has ever embarked upon. We have more than doubled our annual paving schedule, which now includes 180 local and residential and arterial City blocks, upgrading about 100 curb ramps and diverting approximately 150,000 discarded tires from landfills using rubberized asphalt.”

Of course, the homeless situation is a current crisis which she addressed by saying, “Last year, the City Council approved the homelessness implementation plan and we have had some success. We will use funds from a Measure H planning grant to establish a storage facility for a homeless person’s property. This will allow the City to enforce regulations that prevent the storage of personal items in the public right of way.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Partnerships are key in creating affordable housing that’s why we came together with Burbank Housing Corporation and Family Promise to rehabilitate a triplex for use as a transitional homeless facility. Additionally, we have partnered with the Downtown Business Improvement District to hire Street Plus for the downtown, including the Metro Link facility. Street Plus works with our police department’s Mental Health Evaluation Team and Ascencia, a non-profit homelessness organization, to connect those in need with available resources.”

Housing in Burbank is also an issue with the City Council setting a goal to build 12,000 units during the next 15 years, focusing on transportation corridors.

Construction has completed or expected to start already as she praised developments like the Talaria Project, which houses Whole Foods and 241 housing units and has been recogined with many awards.

“Recently approved is the First Street Village Mixed-use project across from the AMC Theaters. This project will result in the development of 275 housing units, 14 of these will be workforce affordable units along with first-floor commercial. We have other residential development proposals that will soon come to the City Council that include the La Terra Project at 777 Front Street with 573 units of housing and a 307-room hotel, and the proposed Premier on First that will result in 108 new housing units, retail, office and conference space along with a 314-room hotel.

The Marriott-brand AC hotel will soon start construction on 3rd Street across from the Colony Theater. It is estimated that it will contribute more than $1.7M in Transient Occupancy Tax to the general fund annually. Additionally, there are two hotels proposed adjacent to the existing Airport Marriott. These would include Aloft and Residence Inn brands totaling 420 rooms.”

In the end she went on to say what made Burbank a world-class city saying, “We protect our existing single-family neighborhoods while building responsibly. With your help, we are fiscally sound and are taking care of our current infrastructure. Burbank offers strong social networks through our diversity in population, backgrounds, and beliefs.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

We are embracing change while determining our future through planning,  setting goals and following through. We beautify our community with arts, culture, and entertainment. We also work with our many non-profits who provide much-needed services the City itself can’t offer.”

There was also a video presentation shot and edited by the City’s Public Information Office that was as well shot and edited as many shows that you see from the studios who dot our community.

Are there still problems to be worked out in the City, yes. And while the outlook of the State of the City left a positive taste, it will take much work in the future to obtain all of the goals.

Editior’s Note: October 25 at 5:00 pm – We now have the video shown at the State of the City Address – you can watch below

 

Ground Broken on New Bikeway Project

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Officials broke ground on what is called the Burbank Channel Bikeway Project on Wednesday afternoon in what will be a 0.79-mile off-street bike and pedestrian path that will be located directly adjacent to the Burbank Western Channel.

Starting at the Downtown Burbank Metrolink station, the channel will be 12 feet wide and run 0.79 of a mile to Alameda Avenue.

Patrick Prescott looks over Map of Bike Path with David Kriske Planner. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

 

This is one of the last links that will create a bike path that starts in Chatsworth and runs all the way to Long Beach, about a 50-mile distance. Improvements at the Channel Bikeway close an important gap that will allow cyclists to seamlessly travel from Downtown Los Angeles in a separate and protected off-street facility.

A release says the Project is the result of a 2009 Metro Call for Projects grant, and Urban Greening for Sustainable Communities Program grant that was awarded in 2012, as well as the new award of Measure M Multi-Year Subregional Program funding.

 

Burbank Channel Bikeway Project Groundbreaking Ceremony

The City of Burbank invites you to attend the Burbank Channel Bikeway Project Groundbreaking Ceremony at the 200 West block of Elmwood Avenue (eastside of the Channel) on October 23, 2019, beginning at 4:00 P.M.

The Burbank Channel Bikeway Project is a 0.79-mile off-street bike and pedestrian path that will be located directly adjacent to the Burbank Western Channel. The 12-foot wide path will begin at the Downtown Burbank Metrolink Station and proceed south to Alameda Avenue.

The Project, when completed, will create a bike path that begins at Chatsworth and ends 50 miles away at Long Beach. It will beautify the Channel while providing a safe off-street facility for bicycle riders and pedestrians. It also builds better neighborhoods by providing recreational amenities that encourages active living while improving the aesthetics of the Channel area. Improvements at the Channel Bikeway close an important gap that will allow cyclists to seamlessly travel from Downtown Los Angeles in a separate and protected off-street facility.

The Project is the result of a 2009 Metro Call for Projects grant, and Urban Greening for Sustainable Communities Program grant that was awarded in 2012, as well as the new award of Measure M Multi-Year Subregional Program funding.