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City Focuses on Proposed FY 2005-2006 Budget: Reflects upturn in local economy

Santa Monica City Manager Susan McCarthy told the City Council last Tuesday that the $383.1 million budget she and City staff have proposed for fiscal year 2005-2006 reflects “a budget context that has changed for the better,” enabling the City to restore some of the services it had cut in the last few lean years, as well as adding some new services.

At a press conference preceding the meeting, on Monday, McCarthy stated that despite the improvement of economic conditions the City was “not exuberantly encouraged by what’s happening [as it is] countered by the fact expenditure pressures are still significant,” pointing out that the “Los Angeles area Consumer Price Index (CPI) indicators are rising at a higher rate than the national rate and that just puts basic spending pressure on the City,” in the form of rising fuel and utility costs and increases in employee salary and benefit costs. 

McCarthy also said that “part of Santa Monica’s resilience in terms of coming back from the recent recession and post 9/11 fallout is the diversity of the City’s revenue picture.”

The proposed budget includes a $207.5 million general fund, down 7.8 percent ($16.9 million) from last year due to a reduced capital improvement budget ($69.4 million), which reflects the upcoming completion of the new Main Library and Virginia Avenue Park. 

Those projects are part of the proposed operating expense budget increase of 4.4 percent ($8.2 million) from fiscal year 2004-2005.

Increases in local tax revenues are the principal bases for the increase in City funds. According to McCarthy’s website budget posting, the City’s “Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and sales tax revenues appear to have returned to pre-recession levels.  In addition, voters approved a 2 percent increase in the TOT in November 2004 that is expected to generate an additional $3.8 million in fiscal year 2005-2006.”

The budget also includes items “to address the principal community priorities that were set by the Council” and the community in January. 

Five new staff positions are being added to address the impacts of homelessness on the community, and funds have also been allocated to evaluate the “continuum of care” now offered to homeless people and to expand the chronic homeless pilot program.

To “enhance the quality of life” and increase safety of Pico Neighborhood residents and encourage community involvement, the new budget includes two staff members  to coordinate youth and neighborhood programs at Virginia Avenue Park, a trades intern position for an at risk youth, a graffiti removal technician, two park rangers and funding for streetscape and lighting improvements in the Pico neighborhood.

Other priorities include timely, responsive and predictable public service from all departments, achieving the goals of the Sustainable City Plan and capitalizing on Santa Monica’s climate and community amenities to promote active living.

McCarthy said the budget proposal also includes funding “to reinvest in infrastructure maintenance … things we’ve had to restrain over the last couple of years of tighter budgets,” and money for four additional park rangers and  landscape maintenance.

In addition, funding has been allocated for a cultural arts master plan and a cost of living increase for arts and social service grants.

According to McCarthy’s website budget posting, the total City budget plan for fiscal year 2006-2007 is projected to be $388.3 million which is an increase of 1.3 percent ($5.2 million) from the 2005-2006 proposed budget.

Council members also heard presentations from heads of  the City departments at study sessions last Tuesday and Wednesday, each of whom discussed his or her department budget priorities for the coming fiscal year.

Director of the City’s Environmental and Public Works Department Craig Perkins’ suggestion that increases in City utility charges were needed elicited much comment from Council members.

Member Ken Genser stated that before he could support increases in rates for residents for water and wastewater, storm water and solid waste treatment  he would “have to understand when a rate payer writes a check every month, where is that money going so we can target our rate increases in the right areas.”

Council member Bobby Shriver suggested that future storm water funding needs might be better addressed by a  City bond measure similar to Proposition O that was approved recently by Los Angeles voters, which  demonstrated that “people are willing to spend money to not get sick when they swim.”

Shriver went on to say if the Council were to approve any rate increases “the analysis to support the increase has to be very detailed” and include evidence “that every efficiency has been sought” as the rate increases Perkins mentioned  were substantial.

McCarthy said, referring to the City’s storm water investment costs, “Santa Monica probably because of our sustainability objectives sets higher goals for ourselves.  If we’re under-performing, my guess is we’re out- performing other cities… [and] public relations and marketing activities for our environmental programs is a substantial expense and one that is borne by…our enterprise rate structures.  We do what we do very well…and the community doesn’t get it free.”                                                                                            On June 21 the Council will hold a public hearing and adopt the budget.  The budget proposal can be reviewed online at www.santa-monica.org.

    City Department Budgets 2005-2006

  • City Council – $502,633

  • City Manager – $9,136,706

  • Records & Election Services – $1,683,664

  • City Attorney – $6,615,581

  • Finance – $6,571,667

  • Human Resources – $2,366,256

  • Planning & Community Development – $18,073,415

  • Police – $55,722,646

  • Fire – $20,500,942

  • Community & Cultural Services – $32,514,278

  • Library – $8,143,094

  • Resource Management – $12,438,632

  • Big Blue Bus – $42,206,706

  • Environmental & Public Works Management – $63,795,084

  • Non-Departmental – $68,843,057

    City of Santa Monica

    Major Capital Improvement Projects

    One-Time Projects ($26.6 million)

    2005-2006

  • Broadband Wireless Network ($650,000)

  • Pico Neighborhood Lighting ($250,000)

  • Park Improvements ($1.6 million)

  • Facility Improvements ($1.1 million)

  • Bayside District – tree grates, lighting, electrical, signage ($396,000)

  • Fire Station 5 Bay Addition ($801,000)

  • Pier – Restroom Replacement ($1.4 million)

  • Parking Structure Seismic Retrofit ($10.6 million)

  • RAND OPA obligation ($2.3 million)

  • Parking Structure Interim Improvements ($2.7 million)

  • Restroom Consolidation ($400,000)

  • 20th Street/Cloverfield Improvements ($875,000 –PropC/STPL grants)

  • Colorado Neighborhood Traffic/Crosswalks ($286,000 –

    office mitigation funds)

  • Exposition Bike & Pedestrian Path – Olympic Sidewalks

    ($305,000 – Office mitigations funds: Prop C grants)

  • Civic Auditorium deferred maintenance ($686,000 – Civic Auditorium Fund and Civic Area Development Fund)

  • Cemetery phone upgrade and mapping system ($262,000)

    Ongoing Programs ($44.8 million)

    2005-2006

  • Vehicle & Equipment Replacement ($13.4 million)

  • Affordable Housing ($13.1 million)

  • Utility Improvements ($6.7 million)

  • Streets, Sidewalks, Parking Lots ($6.6 million)

  • Facilities Deferred Maintenance ($2.6)

  • Bus Stop Amenities ($2.1 million)

  • 1% for Arts ($260,000)

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