The Santa Monica City Budget as adopted for fiscal year 2008-2009 is a record $524.4 million. As indicated in the upper left pie chart, 48 percent of this amount ($252.5 million) is held in the City’s General Fund, with the balance held in Enterprise Funds, Redevelopment Funds and other funds.
The budget for the coming fiscal year represents an 8.6 percent increase over fiscal year 2007-08. City Manager Lamont Ewell has pointed out that the General Fund budget 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 over the prior year 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.
Because the capital improvements may be stepped-up or deferred in any given year at the discretion of the budget planners and, ultimately, the City Council, an analysis of the General Fund revenues and expenditures (bottom two charts) is perhaps the truest basis for evaluating the economic condition of the City on an on-going basis.
Santa Monica had a population of 84,084 as of the 2000 census. Although the population has variously been estimated anywhere between 88,000 and 103,000 since that time, the Mirror uses the 2000 census population for ease of comparison with other cities, and based on that figure the 2008-2009 General Fund Budget yields a “per capita budget” of $3,002.95.
By contrast, Beverly Hills, with a 2000 census population of 33,784, has a fiscal year 2008-2009 adopted General Fund budget of $173.4 million, for a $5,132.61 per capita budget. Culver City, with a 2000 census population of 38,816, has a fiscal year 2008-2009 proposed General Fund budget of $87.0 million, for a $2,241.34 per capita budget.
The City of Pasadena, which attracts workers from surrounding San Gabriel Valley communities for employment and which offers the entertainment, shopping, and dining attractions of Old Town to surrounding communities as well, had a 2000 census population of 133, 936 and a fiscal year 2008 adopted General Fund budget of $204 million, for a $1,523.12 per capita budget.
Of course such comparisons are flawed. Different cities may have had different growth experiences since 2000. They may define their General Funds and other funds differently. Each city has its own peculiarities. And although Santa Monica may have a resident population under 100,000, it can easily have 250,000 people within its city limits on a given day with commuters, tourists, and regional beachgoers and Promenade strollers.
Nevertheless, such comparisons are interesting and may be a good place to begin a discussion.