LONG BEACH — Former 8th District City Councilwoman Rae Gabelich, a possible mayoral candidate, left her office about $20,000 over her budget when she completed her second term in July, according to a city report.
The amount was made public last week when the City Council received a year-end update on the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
Gabelich attributed the overspending to step raises given long-tenured staff members. The councilwoman served two, four-year terms.
"You have no control over not giving (step raises) to employees," Gabelich said last week.
She also said she had been against equalizing council budgets, a move made several years ago to rein in city spending.
The 8th District, which includes parts of Bixby Knolls, North Long Beach and other nearby neighborhoods, faces different challenges than the Belmont Shore-centered 3rd District, or the more suburban 5th District in East Long Beach, Gabelich argued.
"If I have issues to deal with like more poverty or more crime ... then that means I need more staff or more resources," she said.
Jonathan Kraus, who served as Gabelich's chief of staff and holds the same position with her successor, Councilman Al Austin, said the city's Department of Financial Management sent a memorandum notifying the 8th District office of the amount on July 13, four days before Austin was sworn in on July 17.
Austin acted to close the gap by cutting back
The office still finished the year $15,966 over budget, and the council voted Tuesday to allow Austin to tap into the district's $500,000 infrastructure fund from last year to cover the excess.
Kraus said Austin "fully expects" to be within budget going forward.
"We did everything we could to still have a functioning office while reducing costs in the 2 1/2 months of last year that he was in office," Kraus said.
Austin, who was endorsed by Gabelich, did not return calls to be interviewed for this article but said at the council meeting Tuesday that the overspending impeded his office's ability to provide services in the district.
Council members were given about $405,000 last year to run their offices, though the amount varied slightly between districts. The vast majority of the funds were used for personnel costs, with most districts employing a staff equivalent to five full-time positions.
According to the 2013 budget released Aug. 1, during the last fiscal year the 8th District had the second-highest personnel expenditures at $384,249, behind Councilman Steven Neal's 9th District, $384,592. The lowest district staff spending was $316,995 in 3rd District Councilman Gary DeLong's office.
Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske's office ended last year about $3,500 over budget.
Schipske said the figure was related to unexpected charges made by the city to her office. She also said that she returned unspent office funds in 2010.
She agreed to deduct the difference from her office expenditures next year, she said.
According to Budget and Performance Management Bureau Director Dennis Strachota, district budgets overshooting their spending goals is uncommon.
He could not readily provide information on previous occurrences.