Santa Monica's Two-Year, $1 Billion Budget Approved

Friday, 28 Jun 2013, 9:20:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

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.

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