First published in the May 7 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burbank staff members are proposing nearly $22.5 million in new and ongoing infrastructure projects for the next fiscal year, with the City Council likely to approve the list later this month.
The projects, which department officials presented Tuesday as part of the city’s annual budget process, range from bike lanes to traffic-signal improvements. About $10 million would go to facility projects, while another $8 million would go toward streets and sidewalks.
The city allocated roughly $18 million for capital improvement projects this fiscal year, which ends in June, and $13 million during fiscal year 2020-21 — a figure noticeably impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those estimates do not include the costs of Burbank Water and Power projects or the $5.4 million allocated for maintenance.
Roughly 60% of the funds would come from restricted dollars, or money that could be used for other projects. Public Works Director Ken Berkman said that because the city’s revenues are increasing — in some cases even beyond pre-pandemic levels — it can confidently fund nearly all of the proposals.
The city would pay for a large portion of the costs with its Measure P sales tax revenue, half of which is earmarked for infrastructure.
Measure P was approved by voters on Nov. 6, 2018, and enacted a three-quarter-cent sales tax to fund general city purposes.
“[The passage of the measure] was a very wise decision, made much more evident given the impacts of an anticipated pandemic,” Berkman told council members.
Proposed new projects include repairing the roof and stormwater drainage at the Burbank Police and Fire departments’ building for $725,000, replacing fitness equipment at Whitnall Highway Park South for $240,000 and upgrading ball field lighting at McCambridge Park for $661,000.
Funding for ongoing projects includes $3 million for a new City Yard Services Building and $1.3 million for the next phase of the civic center and Central Library redevelopment.
Berkman also said city staff members would work on a design for a potential reconfiguration of San Fernando Boulevard in downtown Burbank, with plans to bring a pilot proposal to the City Council in February. City planners are aiming to provide more outdoor dining opportunities by reconfiguring parking, he said.
The city will seek a $1.15-million grant from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to continue its multi-year Glenoaks Boulevard traffic-calming project, Berkman said, and expects to begin the construction phase in August.
The project, which gained particular focus after three young people died in a car crash on the street last year, will include traffic signal improvements for 14 intersections. Those upgrades, according to Berkman, will include replacements, flashing yellow turn arrows, traffic cameras and Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant ramps.
While the council usually approves most or all proposed projects, fiscal year 2022-23 will be the first in which there are more new projects than Measure P funding is available, Berkman said. Three projects — ball field fencing at Larry Maxam Park, a shade structure at Carson Park and an updated kitchen for the police and fire departments — are not included in the request list.
CITY COUNCIL GROWS RESERVES
The Burbank City Council also indicated it will likely adopt a policy increasing the city’s financial reserves, a move that will decrease the general fund balance but provide an economic cushion.
The policy would create a “budget stabilization” reserve account equal to 5% of the recurring general fund budget, which the city uses to operate most of its departments.
The move would increase general fund reserves to 25% of the recurring budget, which primarily consists of tax revenues. The city could use the stabilization fund during an economic downturn or to help pay for high-priority items.
The new reserve would require an initial contribution of about $10 million and an estimated addition of $164,000 per year, according to city staff members.
Other proposed reserve changes include increasing the “compensated absences” fund, which helps the city cover the costs of accrued leave payouts, and moving some of the annual general fund balance to a pension trust. That trust would receive about $6.8 million in fiscal year 2022-23, but an average of about $2 million annually in following years.
If the City Council adopts the policy with the rest of the 2022-23 budget on May 24, the reserve contributions would total about $18 million, lowering the projected end-of-year general fund balance to about $12.1 million.