Now that the state budget — 85 days late — has been agreed upon, counties and cities are left to assess the impact that reductions in various programs will have on their constituents.
Cutbacks at the state level frequently lead to cuts in municipal programs, as cities are left to reconfigure their budgets and decided which portions will receive priority status in the face of shrinking revenues.
Reductions in funding to local clinics and social services statewide topped Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s list this year, and Santa Monica’s social services agencies, such as CLARE and Jewish Family Services, will likely see a reduction to the grants they receive from the county.
The governor slashed $4 million from the Emergency Housing Assistance Fund, leaving these agencies to pull back many of their services.
“Our domestic violence program will see a ten percent reduction,” said John Maceri, executive director of OPCC (formerly the Ocean Park Community Center). “And that is a pretty significant reduction for us.”
The Venice Family Clinic, for the second straight year, will also be forced to reassess programs that it offers to tens of thousands of underprivileged residents.
“The cuts in this budget are much worse than I’ve seen in the 14 years that I’ve been here,” said Elizabeth Benson Forer, the clinic’s executive director.
Redevelopment agencies are also being hit hard.
“Across the state, redevelopment agencies are seeing a loss of $350 million,” said Santa Monica director of finance Carol Swindell. “Santa Monica will lose approximaelty $4.3 million from its redevelopment agency.”
Transportation funds, which state legislators have seen as a source of revenue that can be used to plug budget deficits in recent years, will also be reduced under Schwarzenegger.
“The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus will lose $3.5 million this year,” Santa Monica’s assistant to the city manager for government relations Kate Vernez told The Argonaut. “That funding comes to us from the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metro], and they are currently considering how they will be approaching these cutbacks to transportation.”
Dan Dawson, public relations manager for the Big Blus Bus (the city’s bus company), said in July that due to effective budgeting and planning, Santa Monica’s transportation department would be able to withstand the state grabbing funds that are normally reserved for county and municipal transit.
However, if this trend continues over the next year or so, Dawson believes that the Big Blue Bus would begin to feel the effects of being deprived of necessary funding.
“There are only so many reserves that are available,” he pointed out. “We also won’t be able to make any improvements or add additional bus routes.”
The cuts to transportation come at a time when ridership on both light rail and bus lines has increased, in large part due to the high gas prices, resulting in more people using public transit.
“We definitely feel that this is the wrong time to take money away from public transit,” Dawson said.
The governor, who signed the budget into law September 23rd, said in a statement that the 2008-09 budget included “real” reform, as opposed to past years.
“While California is certain to face a difficult budget situation again next year, this budget does not take money out of people’s paychecks or borrow from voter-approved local government or transportation funds, and it includes real budget reform with teeth,” said Schwarzenegger, a former Santa Monica resident. “These budget reforms, when approved by voters, will finally put California’s budget on a path toward long-term fiscal stability.”
Maceri said that, given the current turmoil with the nation’s financial markets, many of OPCC’s private donors are not contributing as much as they have in past years.
“There’s no doubt that’s happening,” OPCC’s executive director replied when asked if private donations were down. “The real test will be in the end-of-the-year giving, so we’re hopeful that things will improve somewhat by then.”
The Venice Family Clinic could lose up to $300,000, “which is difficult to sustain” said Benson Forer.
Unlike OPCC, private donations have not tailed off dramatically at the Venice clinic. “And we thank our donors for that,” Benson Forer added.
There is some good news regarding the budget. The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, which manages Marina del Rey, will not sustain any significant cutbacks.
“We had already eliminated a few positions when the first budget was proposed in July, but they were not service cuts, nor do they affect service enhancements,” said Kerry Silverstrom, the deputy director of Beaches and Harbors.
Funding to state libraries was slashed by 11 percent, more than double what the State Legislature had recommended. But county libraries such as the county Lloyd Taber Marina del Rey Library will not suffer any cutbacks in service or personnel.
“Thus far, there will be no cuts in personnel or service,” said Pamela Brussard, public information officer for the Los Angeles County Public Libraries.
Many cities, along with Los Angeles County, may not know the full impact of these budget cuts for another few months.
“The state deficit is still looming, and we’re very concerned about midyear cuts and what might happen in January,” Vernez cautioned.
The loss of over $4 million to the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency is significant, said Swindell.
“For many cities, [these agencies] are the primary engines for economic growth, which is very important to a city’s economic health,” she said.
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents Santa Monica and portions of Venice, was not available for comment on the state budget’s effects on local communities.