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Council to Hold Budget Review Triple Header  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

May 24, 2011 – The City Council will meet three nights this week to hash out Santa Monica's budget, as well as make decisions about several other money matters, including funding for the Civic Auditorium.

Having already decided to prepare a two-year budget in order to save staff time and taxpayer money, the council will hold three sessions to review city finances for fiscal years 2011-2013 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. The public portion of the meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m., not 6:30 p.m. as they usually do.

“This is a no-cuts budget, which in this economic climate is remarkable and is something for which we can all be grateful,” Mayor Richard Bloom told The Lookout Friday.

In addition to being “our first crack at a two-year budget,” budget documents will be “more concise and easier to read,” said Bloom.

“I hope folks will give us some feedback, let us know what they like and what they don't like,” he added.

Tuesday will kick off with a discussion of the budget's overall context and “budget balancing strategies/results,” before zeroing in on various city offices, including the City Attorney's office, the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, the airport and a proposed Office of Emergency Management.

Records and Election Services, Human Resources, the Department of Finance and the City Library will also be up for discussion.

The council will come back Wednesday to look at the figures for the Police and Fire Departments, the Big Blue Bus, the Departments of Housing & Economic Development and of Public Works, and capital improvement programs.

And they'll finish off Thursday with the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs' budget presentation, along with associated grant funding recommendations.

Bloom said he hopes to wrap up the meetings up between 8 and 9 p.m. But he might have a tough time some nights, as the budget won't be the only item on the agendas.

The council will revisit a persistent and thorny debate about the limits on individual donations to local campaigns Tuesday night. Earlier this month, five council members couldn't agree on whether or not to raise the limit from $250 to $400, and finally decided to put the matter on hold until at least six of them were present. ("Campaign Contribution Limits Removed for Independent Committees, Unchanged for Individuals, May 13, 2011")

They will also be asked – both as council members and as members of the Redevelopment Agency – to approve contracts and funding agreements for a series of redevelopment agency-funded projects.

The city is still laboring under the possibility that Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate California's redevelopment agencies may pass, so staff says “it is prudent” to negotiate contracts and tie up funding so that the state can't kill many of the projects the city has in the works.

In the process the council is being asked to consider redistributing the money it plans to spend, increasing funding for the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square parks from $25 million to $46.1 million and for the Civic Center Auditorium renovation from $25 million to $46.8 million.

Funding for the civic auditorium rehab has already been the subject of debate. In March, Councilmember Bobby Shriver, who was concerned about the $25 million price tag, asked city staff to return with a report outlining alternative sources of funding for the project. That report, dated May 13, is linked in Tuesday's staff report. ("Council Votes for Live Shows at the Civic Auditorium," March 10, 2011)

Saturday, Council member Terry O'Day sent an email to his distribution list in which he indicated his decision not to support additional funding for the civic auditorium remodel by not including it on a list of projects he said he'd vote for.

Second readings of ordinances related to signage and to the elimination of emeritus positions on commissions are also on Tuesday's agenda.

Thursday's agenda is topped off by the an item giving half of a recently-enacted sales tax increase to the school district.

The half-cent increase kicked in on April 1 and, in the first quarter, has generated $2,180,000. The council is being asked to give the district $1,090,000 in exchange for a joint-use agreement for recreational facilities. City staff expect the total revenue from the half-cent increase during fiscal year 2011-2012 to be in the neighborhood of $11.4 million.

Each meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m., and will be held in the City Council Chambers at 1685 Main Street.



“This is a no-cuts budget, which in this economic climate is remarkable." Richard Bloom

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