During a joint meeting June 15 of the City Council, Redevelopment Agency, Housing Authority, and Parking Authority, the City Council, wearing all these hats, adopted the new budget. But adoption came after many questions and much discussion, and with a fairly long list of resolutions and amendments.
The proposed budget was submitted to the Council on May 19. Modifications have since been made based on Council questions and new information. The major changes include: General Fund revenues increased by $2,132,000; an increase of $1,445,000 in General Fund appropriations; and an additional $1.3 million for limited-term positions that will provide staffing for capital projects funded by the Redevelopment Agency.
Two FTE fire inspector positions that were eliminated under the Proposed Budget will be reinstated and a position for an animal care inspector will also be reinstated and upgraded.
The $300,000 in discretionary one-time use funds is maintained by the revised budget, and more than $108,000 of Council contingency funds remains unspent at this date. Therefore, the Council was told that it had a total of $408,000 in available discretionary funds.
During public comment, former Mayor Judy Abdo requested that the Council consider using some of the discretionary funds for helping child care programs that were in jeopardy due to funding cuts from the State. An amendment was created in response to her suggestion, with an allocation of $72, 000.
The Council had questions for representatives from various departments. A question from Robert Holbrook had to do with five sworn police officer positions that were “frozen.”
Deputy Chief Phil Sanchez said that the positions had been changed to help with the reduction in expenditures and that the positions were not being eliminated but would be “refilled” at a later date. However, the positions were still considered “funded.”
This proved confusing to the Council. Terry O’ Day asked if this was a typical civic policy, to which Director of Finance Carol Swindell replied: “Vacancies are handled in a variety of ways. Most cities have some positions that are vacant.”
Mayor Bobby Shriver said that this was “misleading” and was a policy that the Council should review later in the year during their budget retreat.
On a motion from Holbrook, a resolution was later added to the line-item list, under which the two police positions were to be reinstated but not to be filled this year, with an evaluation to take place next year to note any decline in services.
Amendments were also added for use of the discretionary funds for the following: $7000 for the annual video of all the Boards’ and Commissions’ reports; $75,000 to Solar Santa Monica; $48,000 for polystyrene enforcement; $55,000 for leaf blower enforcement (which will enable the Office of Sustainability and the Environment to assume enforcement responsibility); and $25,000 for educating the public on new bicycle lane markings and bike safety.
All of these amendments passed but Shriver voted “no” on each one, explaining that he wanted to save the funds for emergencies.
One more amendment was proposed, involving funds for a youth anti-violence program. The $25,000 allocation was to be taken from the $300,000 one-time use fund, although it would take the expenditure list over the limit by $7000. This amendment passed 4-3, with Shriver, Holbrook, and Pam O’Connor voting against.
The Council voted on each line item of a number of resolutions. These included: New classifications and salary rates; setting permit and user fees in Planning and Community Development, Public Works, Fire, and Police Departments; revising the fee schedules for library fines and user fees; setting an amount for fuel flowage fees for the sale of aviation fuels at the Santa Monica Airport; various other user fees; and the acceptance of federal supportive housing program (SHP) renewal grant funds from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
All of the resolutions passed, although Shriver voted against several of them. O’Connor defended Shriver’s “no” votes by noting that “when a Council member votes ‘no,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are against a particular project,” but rather that they might not consider the circumstances or details to be acceptable.
With these approvals, the 2010-2011 Santa Monica budget was in the books, and everyone was able to leave with a sigh of relief that it was finally over—until next year.