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City Council Report: Record Budget:

The Santa Monica City Council approved a record $521.7 million budget for the coming fiscal year at a special Council meeting on Tuesday, June 17.  In doing so, the Council not only adopted the budget as submitted by City Manager Lamont Ewell, but added $502,000 in expenditures for a variety of special projects.

The budget represents an 8.6 percent increase over fiscal year 2007-08.  Ewell has pointed out that the General Fund budget of $251.7 million is only an increase of 4.3 percent over the prior year, an increase that is in step with the general inflation rate; the biggest increases are outside the General Fund, consisting largely of what Ewell describes as “aggressive” capital improvements and the addition of nearly two dozen full-time employees for the Annenberg Beach House (415 PCH) scheduled to open in spring 2009.

The special projects discussed and approved at Tuesday’s Council meeting are holiday lights for the Pier ($40,000), traffic signal design for the 1440 PCH parking lot ($200,000), CalSafe high school retention program ($32,000), public art maintenance and conservation ($100,000), and identity signage for the 3rd Street district ($10,000).  The Council also approved $200,000 for an Ocean Park traffic signal, but that is funded by grant money outside the budget.

The additional $502,000 expenditures are funded by a combination of unallocated funds in the new budget, funds carried over from the prior year, and adjustments to revenue estimates in the new budget.

The capital improvements reflected in the budget include the Civic Center Specific Plan, the expansion of Memorial Park, improvements for the Pier, and the western segment of Ocean Park Boulevard.

In approving the budget on Tuesday, the Council also approved a variety of City service fees as well as the transfer of funds from the Parking Authority to the City.

The only other item on the Council’s agenda at the special meeting was its continuing consideration of the Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan.  On Tuesday, the Council focused on the transportation aspects of LUCE – walking, biking, transit, and autos.  Public comment addressed the joint use of the Samohi campus and the Civic Center, parking a Bergamot Station, and provision for bicycle facilities in the Plan.

While councilmembers had differing reactions to the staff’s presentation, a common thread was an expression of frustration in addressing any one aspect of LUCE before having thoroughly reviewed the entire package.  Again, no vote was taken, and the matter was continued to the next Council meeting June 24 when the aspect of neighborhoods will be taken up.

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