Santa Monica officially has a budget for the next two years. Total price tag: $1,055,100,000.
Council members approved Tuesday night a Biennial Budget allocating $525.7 million in spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year and another $529.4 million the next year.
Despite the high price tag, City officials are cautious of what possibly lurks when the next Biennial Budget comes in front of the council in June 2015: budget cuts and an operating deficit.
Still, the current Biennial Budget maintains many of the City’s services, albeit with each department given a smaller piece of the pie.
In all, City Hall nipped 3.7 percent in spending through June 2014 and another five percent through June 2015 to ensure Santa Monica remains cash flow positive through the end of the Biennial Budget.
The cuts had to be made to account for the loss of redevelopment funding in 2012. However, City officials assured the council and Santa Monica residents that services would not be slashed despite the trimmed budget.
With the council’s approval, the 2013-14 budget officially kicks in July 1 and runs through June 30, 2014.
Budget planning might become dicey one year later, when the 2015-17 Biennial Budget could be in the red, courtesy of pension payments and retirement plans.
During budget deliberations earlier this week and during a study session last month, City staff informed council members Santa Monica may grappling dealing with operational deficits as early as June 2015, when the General Fund is anticipated to be almost $6 million in the red.
Within four years, the deficit may top $18 million.
While a dark cloud appears to be hovering over future Biennial Budgets, council members could only focus on the one they had in front of them Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning.
A few fees (library, pool, elections) were proposed to drum up additional revenues. City Hall may also be seeking a new revenue stream from the proposed addition of 350 parking meters and potential enactment of preferential parking programs for non-residents and non-guests.
Two fees were approved separately as ordinances. Owners of security alarm devices must now pay City a $27 burglary alarm registration fee. Meanwhile, candidates seeking an elected seat on one of Santa Monica’s four public panels will have to pay a $25 filing fee to have his or her name placed on the ballot.
The highlight of the budget deliberations, however, was a pair of discussions involving funding for the Pico Youth & Family Center (PYFC) and the Cradle to Career initiative.
On the one hand, $225,000 was allocated to a third-party group – Social Environment Entrepreneurs – to operate PYFC. However, PYFC received more than $307,000 in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Despite cutting more than $80,000 in funding for PYFC, Council member Gleam Davis assured those who remained in Council Chambers at the late hour there was no intent to shut the PYFC down.
With a smaller budget, PYFC’s operation shifts from being a case management center to being a referral service.
City staff expressed concern in a report to Council members that PYFC “did not submit an independent proposal for youth center operations as part of the RFP process,” and those concerns “continue to be documented and many remain.”
Potentially picking up some slack for PYFC in the youth services department is Cradle to Career, a local service provider City staff recommended to “offer mental health services, job readiness and employment placement, education re-engagement, and in-the-field outreach and assertive case management to vulnerable youth aged 16 to 24.”
Another key budgetary item: discretionary funds. According to City staff, $740,611 is currently available in contingency and discretionary funds.
All council members were present for the budget hearing, which lasted until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.