for fiscal year beginning Friday, July 1st
BY ANITA VARGHESE
The Santa Monica City Council adopted a $383.1 million city budget for the 2005-2006 fiscal year beginning Friday, July 1st.
Councilmembers had been holding budget study session meetings since May and approved the budget Tuesday, June 21st.
“We took into consideration the community’s priorities and to restore critical municipal services which have been constrained over the last several years,” said city manager Susan McCarthy.
“There are many more things that would be good to fund than we were able to fit into the proposed budget,” she said.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the city has $207.5 million in the general fund and $175.6 million in other designated funds.
Designated funds include $49.9 million for the Big Blue Bus, $43.7 million for the Redevelopment Agency and $14.9 million for the Housing Authority.
The general fund’s largest revenue source is local taxes, which provide the city with $146.5 million.
The second largest revenue source is collections from licenses and permits, which brings the city $23.2 million.
Funding the Santa Monica Police Department is the city’s biggest expenditure and accounts for $55 million in spending.
Police are followed by Community and Cultural Services programs, which cost the city $27.9 million.
The general fund budget is down 7.8 percent this fiscal year compared to last year, McCarthy said.
Last week, councilmembers changed the budget recommended by city staff and added funding for their own priority projects.
“The budget as recommended is a good start,” said councilmember Kevin McKeown.
“Now we have a challenge because we are all sitting here with a list of things we would like to fund and a list of funding sources.
“Guess which list is longer?” he asked.
Councilmember priority projects include:
– restoration of the cost of living adjustment for arts grantees;
– restoration of early childhood development subsidies;
– restoration of funding to the Santa Monica Symphony;
– funding to conduct an inventory of city landmarks; and
grant funding to the Santa Monica Historical Society.
Councilmembers also added a “homelessness secretary” position. This one-year pilot program’s goal is for the city to hire a “relatively famous” public official at $200,000 to work with other Westside cities on homelessness issues.
“Homelessness has been for a number of years the community’s first priority and we are going to make an extra effort to address this issue,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor.
Staff positions were added to the Human Services department to work with the “secretary.”
“Homelessness is the third rail of Santa Monica politics, so I guess I will be electrocuted,” said Councilmember Bobby Shriver.
“As the work of Bring LA Home [a Los Angeles County campaign to end homelessness] comes to fruition, we need people working full time on these matters to make significant things happen,” he said.
To fund this list of projects, councilmembers voted to cut funding from other items already budgeted.
McCarthy sent a memo to councilmembers, suggesting which budget items could be cut.
“I think we are short about $320,000,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook.
“It would be painless to defer some things to next year and get some savings,” he said.
The city repaves the streets on 75 residential blocks per year and councilmembers cut seven blocks from the list this year.
Councilmembers also cut $25,000 from ongoing facilities maintenance, which is five percent of the maintenance budget.
Also cut were $23,000 for the Santa Monica Festival, which the city traditionally funds at $65,000 per year.
McKeown and Councilmember Richard Bloom voted against cutting festival funds.
“The Santa Monica Festival is Santa Monica’s premiere event,” Bloom said.
“Thousands and thousands of residents enjoy this festival and every school in the city participates in it,” he said.
After councilmembers adopted the final budget, they said programs that lost funding would have first priority for restoration if extra funds become available midyear.