Santa Monica’s proposed FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget

May 23, 2019
by Rick Cole

Santa Monica’s proposed FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget

As City Manager, it is my City Charter responsibility to present the proposed FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget for the City of Santa Monica.

While every budget cycle represents an important opportunity to preserve our City fiscal sustainability, the next three biennial budgets represent an important inflection point for Santa Monica’s future.

Santa Monica’s financial health remains strong. Looking forward, however, our long-established ways of budgeting and making economic and operational projections will be challenged.  Traditional revenue streams are growing at a slower rate due to changes in the modern economy; pension costs are projected to increase significantly to address statewide unfunded public pension liabilities; and as Governor Newsom’s May Revised Budget notes, both the world and national economy face “increased risk.”

Above all, Santa Monica recognizes that profound technological, economic and demographic changes are reshaping our lives, affecting both the public and private sectors and rendering old ways of doing business and delivering services increasingly obsolete. 

These challenges, and our focus on delivering the most effective services where they have the greatest impact, are the impetus for our goal to create a 21st Century government that works better and costs less.  This goal is the basis for the FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget process and a six-year transition to performance-based budgeting based on the Framework for a Sustainable City of Wellbeing.

This budget plan for FY 2019-21 will also:

  • Ensure continuing excellent service and safety to our community.
  • Maintain fiscal balance in a changing economy.
  • Eliminate the threat of our unfunded pension liability through an accelerated 13-year pay-down of our unfunded pension liability, currently estimated at $448 million. This would result in $106 million in savings over 30 years.
  • Continue our commitment to keeping our neighborhoods safe as we reverse the recent rise in crime.

I encourage you to review the proposed FY 2019 – 21 Biennial Budget to learn more about how we achieve our goals through continued smart fiscal planning. City Council will discuss this at a June 5 study session with adoption planned for June 25.

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