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Council Approves $1.3 Billion Biennial Budget
By Jorge Casuso
June 23, 2021 -- After nearly eight hours of public testimony and discussion, the City Council on Tuesday approved a more than $1.3 billion biennial budget as Santa Monica's economy begins to bounce back.
Approved unanimously, the budget adds funding to tackle homelessness and help local businesses recover from the coronavirus shutdown, as well as uses one-time funds to enhance "clean and safe services."
It also funds programs and services that were cut or scaled back last year to fill a gaping budget gap, including adding school crossing guards and library staff, and restoring Swim Center hours of operation and weekly street sweeping starting in September.
“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," Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement after the meeting.
“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."
The overall budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22, which starts on July 1, is $707.8 million -- $2.3 million more than initially proposed a month ago, while the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget is $598.9 million, or $1.1 million more that originally proposed.
The difference is due to an increase in revenues as the city recovers from the economic shutdown and savings from the current fiscal year, City officials said.
The biennial $1,306,700 budget "comes as Santa Monica emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and cultivates a revitalized local economy," officials said.
The approved biennial budget has a strong focus on addressing homelessness, which has reached crisis proportions across the border in Venice.
It provides funding to continue deploying multidisciplinary homeless engagement street teams and adds two new Community Services Department positions to engage with regional partners to address the issue.
The budget also funds a two-year Community Response Unit program pilot focused on the Fire Department's response to calls for service involving the homeless.
In addition, the budget provides funds to upgrade the City's permitting and leasing systems, support forming a possible Business Improvement District (BID) on the Pier and bankroll a rent abatement program to support small local businesses.
The budget also includes funding to add Code Enforcement Officers at the Pier, support the return of the holiday ice-skating rink Downtown and continue the ambassador program at Reed Park "with a focus on safety," officials said.
It also provides funds to support the School District’s youth sports program and boosts funding for neighborhood groups by $20,000.
As part of the budget, the Council increased some permit and user fees, fines and civil penalties, and parking rates "to reflect cost recovery," officials said.
The Adopted Biennial Budget will be posted to https://finance.smgov.net/budgets-reports/annual.
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