By Jack Simon
Observer Staff Writer 

SM City Council Adopts Balanced Biennial Budget

'Budget remains impacted by the pandemic,' says Mayor Himmelrich

 

Mary Leipziger

J.Rich and the FreeAgents Drumline at City of Santa Monica's Juneteenth celebration.

The City Council this week adopted a balanced 2021–2023 biennial budget which "positions Santa Monica to emerge from the COVID-19 restrictions and cultivate a revitalized local economy."

The budget – totaling $707.8 million in 2021-22 and $598.9 million in 2022-23 – focuses on community priorities and includes "expanded services to address homelessness, provide clean and safe public spaces and facilitate an equitable and inclusive economic recovery," said city officials

At its Tuesday night's meeting, the Council approved changes to some permit and user fees, fines and civil penalties as well parking rate to reflect cost recovery.

In its report, staff recommended increases to 336 fees and decreases to 242 fees to "set them at appropriate cost recovery levels." Staff also recommended the creation of 49 new user fees and deletion of 53 fees due to redundancy with other fees or for services no longer provided.

"We are beginning to see the results of our hard work of responding to pandemic-related revenue impacts and stabilizing the government at lower revenue and spending levels," said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. "This Biennial Budget remains impacted by the pandemic and we appreciate the patience of the community in understanding that City spending and activities cannot yet return to 2019 levels, but Santa Monica is well on its way to its bright future and on the rise from here."  

The Biennial Budget comes on the heels of pandemic-induced recession that forced Santa Monica to layoff 400 staff members to offset the dramatic drop in city revenues. City staff said the new budget reflects no deficit but "continues to reflect prudent financial management with restrained enhancements."

The General Fund budget totals $350.6 million for 2021-22 and $363. million in 2022-23. In comparison, the pre-pandemic 2018-19 General Fund budget was $440.2 million, city staff said in a report.

Programs and services funded in the Biennial Budget include:

Weekly street sweeping beginning in September; a Community Response Unit (CRU) to support homeless outreach within the Santa Monica Fire Department and continuing multi-disciplinary street teams; a park planner; and emergency economic assistance for vulnerable Santa Monicans.

The budget also provides funds for a rent abatement program to support small Santa Monica businesses; continuation of the ambassador program at Reed Park with a focus on safety; crossing guards at additional locations throughout the City; and the School District's youth sports program.

Mary Leipziger

Performer at City of Santa Monica's Juneteenth celebration.

In response to community concerns regarding pickleball access and facilities, city officials said the approved park planner position will address longer-term access to pickleball in Santa Monica. They mentioned that this week tennis courts began opening one hour earlier at 7 a.m. and the courts at Memorial Park will be restriped this summer.

On Tuesday night, the Council also approved the Santa Monica Pier Corporation (SMPC) 2021-22 Budget which projects $705,000 in revenues and $790,000 in estimated expenditures. The projected budget shortfall of $85,000 will be covered by the reserves, city officials said.

Through a services agreement with the city, SMPC manages programs, services and operations at the Pier, including filming, event rentals, marketing/social media, and the production of community programing, officials said.

 

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