The City Council this week decided to spend $300,000 from a fund reserved for stabilizing the city budget on after-middle youth programs, but left open the possibility of diverting money used for employee bonuses.
Councilman David Gordon on Tuesday called for the city to suspend its employee bonus program, which is currently budgeted at roughly $1 million, to pay for all youth programs.
“I think that [the bonus] money ought to be taken back for the special circumstances and needs that we all recognize for our young people, and other programs…whether it’s a $300,000 amount or not,” Gordon said.
“The people who might have otherwise been considered for the merit bonus or pay, those folks are going to have to understand we’re in tight times and we don’t have the luxury of having that now,” Gordon said.
Suspending the bonus program would require contract negotiations with the general employees and managers union, but the City Council could pass a resolution to halt the payouts for city executives and unrepresented management, officials said.
City Manager Mike Flad said the first draft of the city’s budget, which has yet to be made public, already leaves out bonus pay for the two non-bargaining groups.
“Even with the merit pay for executives and for unrepresented managers, there could be enough dollars to fund a program like this,” Flad said. “The problem is, much of those dollars for this year have already been awarded.”
Appropriating merit pay for the youth programs will be among the options discussed by City Council members in the coming months as they struggle to come up with funds amid a projected $8.4-million budget gap.
School-based counseling, police youth recognition programs and Teens in Action also are up for funding.
The after-middle-school program lost its funding during the last budget cycle. The Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley picked up the program for Jordan and Muir middle schools and has plans to offer it at Luther for the upcoming school year.
In an effort to provide some financial support to the Boys & Girls Club for bearing the burden of the cost during increasingly difficult economic times, the City Council directed the nonprofit to apply for funding through the Youth Task Force.
The council also increased the task force’s budget from $250,000 to $300,000.
“They’re all worthwhile programs,” said Councilman Jess Talamantes. “I want to fund them all.”
For now, allocating $300,000 from the city’s stabilization fund will draw down from the current $1.2 million, officials said, although they will work to backfill the money from elsewhere.