“City Staff scrambles to meet required 5% reduction in department budgets on top of previous 3% reduction.” “Residents worry about safety and services during hard economic times.” These might be headlines in articles about the City budget debate. While the State is reeling from huge shortfalls and our nation is grappling with bank and corporate failures, high housing foreclosure rates, and higher unemployment numbers, the City of Santa Monica seems to be coping comparatively well in spite of downturns in standard sources of income such as auto sales taxes, hotel occupancy taxes and property sales taxes. How can that be and what is the City going to do about the reductions it needs to make? Here’s how City Council Members answer those questions and what they say about how they’re going to decide where to make cuts. To contact Council Members with your concerns and suggestions email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Genser. “For me, public process is a very important part of the process. But people have been surprisingly quiet on this issue and that says to me that, at least so far, there are no apparent, major problems with the proposed budget. I feel we need to look at the entire City Budget and make sure it is in the black at the same time fee increases should not be such that make it harder for people, especially young people, to participate and we need to be extremely careful.”
Richard Bloom. “The City wisely put 8.2 million dollars into a rainy day fund and we now plan to use that fund over a 2 year period hoping that the national economy will recover sooner than that. That will allow us to maintain essential services such as police and fire and keep any necessary cuts as far away from where residents will feel them as possible.”
Gleam Davis. “We are very lucky that the City is not in the same desperate straits as the other cities in California because our sources of income are so diversified. Although we do have to make certain reductions and we have instituted a hiring freeze, reduced the use of consultants and limited other expenditures, that is preferable to eliminating services to residents. If the economy remains bad then the next budget cycle will be more difficult.”
Bob Hollbrook. “This is the most difficult financial year in all my 19 years of being on the Council and we don’t know how long this recession/depression will last. Right now we can do what we need to do with hiring freezes, less frequent rotation of the 600+ vehicles in the City fleet, longer intervals between tree trimming, alley repaving and other non-essential services. My idea of the last place to cut is public safety or services like the public library. We need to get through the next couple of years by relying on the City’s rainy day reserves and by keeping things going so that we protect the people of Santa Monica.”
Kevin McKeown. “Unlike the State we are, at least, partially protected by previous prudence and are able to draw upon short term reserves. I think we need to take this as an opportunity to think through how we can provide needed resources in a sustainable way. We also shouldn’t price out valuable services through fee increases. We wouldn’t, for example want to want to raise fees that would price out the 12 step programs that save lives, increase public safety, and save the City money. We need to keep good programs viable so we don’t lose experienced and dedicated staff and so that we continue to serve the needs of the people of the City.”