The Santa Monica City Council has approved the city budget of $521.7 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year — for the first time surpassing the half-billion-dollar mark.

That’s an increase of about $41 million over last year’s budget, which was $480.4 million, after being revised throughout the year from the originally approved $440 million.

The general fund budget hit $251.7 million, up only a little from last fiscal year’s $250.3 million, which was revised throughout the year from the originally approved $246 million general fund budget.

The City Council made last minute amendments to the budget, appropriating an additional $501,000 for various programs.

The council appropriated $119,000 for additional tree maintenance, $40,000 for holiday lights on the Santa Monica Pier, $32,000 for the Cal-SAFE Program that serves expectant and parenting students and their children, $100,000 for public art maintenance, $200,000 for a traffic signal on Pacific Coast Highway and $10,000 towards the Third Street Historic District identity program.

Expenditures are up by about $9.7 million, or 4.3 percent, said Chuck McBride, the city’s assistant director of finance.

A large portion of the expenditure increases includes $890,000 for tree trimming and replacements, $250,000 for homeless intervention, $240,000 to implement a panhandling campaign and $380,000 for an increase in a regional dispatch contract with the Los Angeles Fire Department, McBride said.

Also, $125,000 was allocated to meet rising power and water costs for the Community Maintenance Department, $288,000 for four jailers, $417,000 for three full-time permanent firefighter positions and $222,000 for an increase in community cultural events and a cultural affairs supervisor.

Revenues for fiscal year 2008-09 are up about $6 million over the last fiscal year, or approximately 2.5 percent, McBride said.

But sales tax revenues are only increasing by about 1.6 percent, which is very “flat,” McBride said.

“Part of this is due to Santa Monica Place being closed for renovations,” he said.

The mall has been closed since January to be revamped.

Parking rates have increased from last fiscal year at the Santa Monica Pier and beach parking lots by about $1 in the daily rate.

After approving the budget, the council thanked city staff for their work on the document.

“I’d like to [Ö] thank the staff for their extraordinary work on this project getting us to this point,” said Councilman Ken Genser. “It’s just been extremely well handled. Things are very clear. I think staff really [Ö] was very responsive to the community and the comments of us [City Council members] and I know we all thank you for your good work.”