Special to the Mirror
While Council members and staff sat and listened, Santa Monica activist Jerry Rubin stood up at the public microphone at the May 23 proposed 2006-07 budget study session and spoke out in praise of the new Main Library, Virginia Avenue Park, the 415 PCH Project and the City’s Triple-A bond rating. However, he reiterated the need for a commission on youth and more use of local consultants for City studies.
Resident Joe Natolie spoke out against the decreased budget for Pier maintenance at the expense of the increased budget for the Bayside District. At the May 24 session, Natolie advocated for more low-income housing, stating that “25 percent of Santa Monicans can’t even afford to move into the City’s so-called affordable housing.”
Staff librarian and manager Celia Carroll and her husband, Larry, spoke out on behalf of more security at the outlying libraries in Ocean Park and Fairview. Carroll, a 30-year City employee, was attacked and injured by a transient at the Ocean Park library on March 16th. City Manager P. Lamont Ewell said staff is looking into more security for all of the City’s facilities.
“This year’s budget reflects an economy that continues to improve when compared to previous years,” says Ewell. “This gradual improvement allows us to focus resources on strengthening our ability to deliver core services while addressing community priorities as confirmed by City Council and the public during budget development.” Nevertheless, legal challenges on a national level to reduce or eliminate the telecommunications portion of local Utility Users Tax revenues, which could cost the City up to $8 million annually, are a threat to City revenues.
The proposed fiscal year 2006-07 budget for all funds totals $444.8 million, an increase of $34.5 million or 8.4 percent over the current year. This increase includes $26.1 million in capital projects and $8.4 million in operating expenses. A total of 24.9 permanent full-time positions have been added. “This is a catch-up budget,” says Mayor Robert Holbrook. “It allows us to catch up on many important core services that our residents expect such as planting new trees, alley repairs and paving and improving customer services in all City departments.”
Community highlights include: expanded hours at the Cove Skate Park, operating funding for the Civic Center Parking Structure and Airport Park, Palisades Bluffs cleaning, lighting for Pico Neighborhood alleys and Citywide graffiti removal. Capital highlights include: $7.0 million for upgrades and renovations to existing buildings, $5.0 million for street repaving, $3.0 million for upgrades to the street light system and $2.6 million for improvements to the City traffic signal system in order to reduce traffic congestion.
“While Santa Monica’s improved revenues are all spoken for in the proposed budget through our new City Manager’s prudent desire to catch up on infrastructure needs deferred during the recent recession,” says Councilmember Kevin McKeown, “some omitted community suggestions for enhanced funding still merit serious consideration. The Council’s job in the next few weeks is to help staff find efficiencies, or better choices, so we can responsibly meet all the most pressing of Santa Monica’s needs.”
If you would like to express your opinion or view the complete 2006-07 budget, go to www.santa-monica.org/finance, or call 310.458.8281.