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By Jorge Casuso

October 28, 2020 -- With City revenues "marginally better than anticipated," the City Council on Tuesday closed out the 2019-20 Fiscal Year budget by using $12 million less in reserves than expected.

City Employees' Council Endorsements

The final changes approved to the budget that ended June 30 required using $30 million, instead of $42 million, in reserves to cover the shortfall caused by the coronavirus emergency declared in March.

Revenues increased slightly "due to the early phased reopening of the economy, some hotels remaining open, and fewer people than anticipated deferring taxes and other payments," City officials said in a statement following Tuesday's vote.

Phil Brock for Council

The budget for the current fiscal year, which started July 1, is $192.3 million less than the previous revised budget, representing a 23.9 percent cut, officials said.

Oscar de la Torre for City Council

Approved in May, the current budget slashed 299 permanent full-time positions and 122 full-time equivalent as-needed positions.

City finance officials project City revenues won't recover to pre-COVID-19 levels until the 2024-25 Fiscal Year.

“While economic instability persists for local governments, the City continues to make prudent financial decisions to ensure the long-term fiscal health of Santa Monica,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg.

Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding will also allow the City to "address critical community needs as we continue to advocate for meaningful stimulus funds for emergency response and recovery,” Dilg said.

The $1.14 million in federal funding is being used to "address critical service needs on a one-time basis," City officials said.

The funding will address the following community priorities:

  • $400,000 to support enhancements to mental health services and access to care for the City's poor and homeless, including potentially piloting an alternative dispatch emergency response model;

  • $280,000 added to the City's Economic Recovery Fund to further assist the community and to expand outdoor dining spaces on Ocean Avenue by constructing temporary sidewalks in the existing parking lane;

  • $159,344 to help provide personal protective equipment and other supplies and resources not reimbursed by FEMA that are needed for reopening and running operations during the coronavirus emergency;
  • $134,000 to pick up "higher than anticipated trash volumes," and

  • $77,000 to expand the newly launched COVID-19 Health Ambassador Program to monitor compliance with health orders in open spaces as parks reopen.

The federal funding will also provide $50,000 to hire as-needed Library "pages" to help with curbside service and programming and $10,000 to buy a truck-mounted pressure washer to help clean pedestrian, playground and restroom areas.

In addition, $30,000 will be given to West Coast Care, a non-profit that helps reconnect homeless individuals in the beach and Pier areas with their families across the country, and provide service options, officials said.

The partnership with West Coast Care and the $400,000 for mental health services for the poor and homeless "are among the initial steps the City is taking to employ alternate approaches to emergency response that do not involve law enforcement personnel," City officials said.

The partnership "marks a shift" from the Police Department to the Fire Department, which will have a permanent presence on the beach in Fire Station 7, a successful pilot initiated last year.

The Council on Tuesday also moved ahead with plans to create a new City department devoted solely to "Santa Monica’s comprehensive vision for sustainable, multi-modal transportation," City officials said.

The new department -- which includes the Big Blue Bus, the Mobility Division and Parking Operations -- will take shape in December 2020 and could be assisted by creating a Mobility Commission.

"Bringing Santa Monica’s exceptional Mobility and Big Blue Bus teams together will allow us to advance transformative green street projects and the kind of long-range planning essential to safe, car-light living and cutting carbon emissions,” said Dilg.

“There is a lot to be excited about with the expansion of the battery electric bus fleet, Vision Zero efforts, and protected bike lines coming in the next few years,” she said.


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