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Council Approves Drastically Reduced Budget, Carves Out Funding for 'Black Agenda'

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By Jorge Casuso

June 26, 2020 -- The City on Tuesday approved a $613.6 million budget decimated by the coronavirus shutdown that provides last-minute funding for "racial justice initiatives" in the wake of nationwide protests against police.

The budget -- which kicks in July 1 -- reduces the current budget amount by nearly 25 percent by slashing jobs and services to help bridge a looming $224 million deficit through June 30, 2022.

It also allocates $225,000 from the general fund and 10 percent of unrestricted donations from the We Are Santa Monica Fund for the Black Agenda spearheaded by members of Santa Monica’s Black community.

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In a last minute move, the Council trimmed the Police Department budget by 3.3 percent in the wake of nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and calls for defunding police.

The Council also will consider proposals to "divest from current police expenditures and invest in the community and particularly in programs and services identified in a Black Agenda for Santa Monica, no later than September 8," officials said.

According to U.S. Census population estimates for 2019, Blacks make up 4.4 percent of Santa Monica's estimated population of 90,401.

“City budgets express community values, prioritized in a complex process involving patience and compromise -- more so this time than in previous years and circumstances,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said in a statement Wednesday.

"Pandemic-triggered revenue shortfalls forced tough decisions that impact service levels to our residents and the livelihood of our dedicated City staff," McKeown said.

"Despite that, our City Council unanimously adopted a balanced budget aimed at Santa Monica’s long-term vitality, focused on recovery and reform.”

The budget eliminates some 247 full-time jobs and releases 467 as-needed workers, halts most capital projects and contracts and cuts back on programs and services ("City Council Slashes Up to 247 Full-time Jobs; Cuts Will Be Felt at All Levels," May 6, 2020).

The across-the-board cuts will result in everything from fewer buses to ride and less frequent services provided to shorter open hours at City facilities.

It also increases the fees charged to participate in community programs long subsidized by the City, while ensuring access for working families by providing financial assistance.

With an eye on the bottom line, the Council approved charging permitted groups a staffing fee to rent municipal pools outside of normal operating hours.

In addition, the budget includes a $1 million allocation to an Economic Recovery Fund "to spur and speed economic recovery in Santa Monica for individuals, families and businesses," City officials said.

The budget allocates $2 million to help between 250 and 450 low-income seniors in rent-controlled apartments make their rent payments.

Another $1,605,265 in federal funding will help 307 low-and moderate income tenants pay their rent for three months ("City Releases Plan to Restore Programs Slashed Due to Coronavirus Shutdown," May 22, 2020).

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