Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, June 13th at the regular Glendale City Council voting meeting, a majority of 5 voted to approve the proposed budget for FY 24-25. The 5 members voting for its passage were Mayor Weiers, Councilmembers Aldama, Clark, Hugh and Malnar with Councilmembers Tolmachoff and Turner voting no.

Is any city budget ever perfect? Will it please everyone? Obviously, the answer is no. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of items within the budget, Councilmember Tolmachoff objected to expenditures regarding 4 items: the Downtown Campus Renovation Project, Heroes Park Sports fields, the Veteran’s Community Project, and covered parking for our city attorneys.

She has every right to disagree and to voice her concerns and to make arguments in support of her positions. Every councilmember has that right and exercises it freely. Councilmember Tolmachoff advocated for her positions during the 3 months of intense council budget review as well as during council workshop discussions of the proposed budget. Her arguments were not enough to create a majority of council in support her positions. The fact that her arguments on these 4 items did not prevail should not have been so compelling as to cause her to vote no on the entire budget.

Councilmember Tolmachoff chose to ignore the countless positive elements of the budget. Items such as $12 million dollars for new fire trucks or funding to improve every right of way within the city or our continued commitment to treat every street and to renovate our city parks.

Councilmember Tolmachoff’s objections were on the use of the city’s unassigned fund balance for downtown renovation, Heroes Park sports fields, the veteran’s community project and covered parking for city attorneys.

The city’s fund balance has grown over the past few years due to all the construction sales tax generated by development in the Loop 303 area. She wants a lion’s share of those funds to stay in the unassigned fund balance (think of it as a rainy-day fund to be used in emergencies).

In a very recent workshop finance staff stated that the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recommends a budgetary fund balance in a city’s general fund of no less than two months of regular general fund operating revenues or regular general fund operating expenditures. Staff went on to recommend changing the current policy of a minimum unassigned fund balance in the general fund to 25% of budgeted ongoing expenditures. A majority of city council concurred because it is a prudent strategy.  Every Valley city has a similar policy with the percentage of fund balance retained ranging from 1% (Phoenix) to 35% (Avondale and Peoria). Keep in mind that our bond agency ratings are excellent. If we were doing something unwise, believe me, the bond agencies would downgrade us immediately.

Consequently, the city has excess funds that can be used for one-time projects. A one-time project is usually, although not always, a construction project. The 4 projects that Councilmember Tolmachoff opposes are all one-time projects. Please note that there is some hypocrisy on the part of Tolmachoff. She does not mind using fund balance for transportation projects which are her priority. Hmmm…

She opposes the cost of renovating the city hall, Murphy Park, the amphitheater and council chambers. This is a long needed and great project. It is the one project that may do more to revitalize downtown Glendale than anything else. As a result of the council’s decision, CivicGroup, LLC. Is planning to build a 120 room hotel adjacent to the Civic Center. A new pub is hosting its opening this week and our Economic Development Department has received numerous calls from developers seeking to invest in our downtown. It seems that our downtown campus renovation project will be the catalyst to bring new life and new businesses to our downtown. It will also help to recruit and retain employees by providing workspaces of today, not 40 years ago when city hall was built.

She opposes the Heroes Park sports fields construction despite a 25-year promise by the city to complete this park. Heroes Park was designed and intended to bring amenities, such as sports fields for our children, enjoyed by other parts of the city to south and west Glendale.

She opposes the Veteran’s Community Project. This project will provide interim housing to veterans as they work their way through various systems to obtain counseling, health services, a permanent job and housing. It is a pilot project that has already drawn interest from other Valley cities that may replicate Glendale’s effort in this area. A majority of council considers this a very worthwhile project that assists a long-neglected segment of our society.

She opposes a covered parking structure for our city attorneys even though it is recognized that it is a retention tool for our current staff. For years the city attorney’s office was in city hall and its staff parked in the city parking garage. With their recent move, they no longer have access to covered parking.

She doesn’t want any of these projects but it’s OK to use the funds for her priority, transportation projects. In a recent article she said, “My plea to the mayor and council to fully fund the transportation plan this fiscal year with cash on hand (fund balance) was met with a resounding no from the majority.” The majority instead identified other projects, long ignored, that warranted funding intended to improve the quality of life for every resident.

City Council adopted a ten year plan to treat all streets. As needed, Council’s plan has been modified and instead of spending $10 million dollars a year, the minimum amount per year has risen to $17 million dollars a year reflecting a total of $450,781,427 million dollars over the next 10 years. This total amount is dependent upon voter approval this Fall of the Transportation Bond authority. However, the planned total for transportation can hardly be considered as underfunded.

Councilmember Tolmachoff literally “threw the baby out with the bath water” because her advocacy for 4 items was not accepted by a majority of the council. The fact that her arguments on these 4 items did not prevail should not have caused her to vote no on the entire budget. It reminds me of the saying, “my way or the highway.”

Councilmember Tolmachoff did not show responsible leadership. A true leader would not attempt to encourage other councilmembers to defeat the city’s entire budget and throw the city into chaos 17 days before the start of the city’s new fiscal year. The results would have been like Congress’s failure to pass a budget before their deadline. A leader recognizes and accepts defeat and works to achieve consensus with colleagues to achieve future wins.

© Joyce Clark, 2023     


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