City of Santa Monica Previews Biennial Budget

The next step is the release of the Proposed FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget on May 23

May 1, 2019

City of Santa Monica Previews Biennial Budget

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – At a special study session last night, April 30, City staff previewed the strategy for its budget for the next two fiscal years as part of a six-year strategy for shaping a government that works better and costs less. Santa Monica City Council members asked a wide range of questions about aspects of the overall plan in anticipation of the release of the Proposed FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget on May 23. The Council welcomes community input during the budget process prior to their final decisions on June 25.

The proposed budget ensures excellent service and safety to our community while addressing the fiscal challenges generated by flattening revenues and increases in expenditures. It puts forward a plan to more aggressively pay down the City’s unfunded pension liability to save over $100 million in interest costs over 30 years. The approach to the budget does three things: (1) leverages performance management through the Framework for a Sustainable City of Wellbeing to deliver the most effective services where they make the greatest impact, (2) finds new ways to do things more efficiently, and (3) looks at long-term changes that will help us invest in 21st Century government.

“This budget aims to build a 21st Century government,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “We are scrutinizing all our functions, using performance metrics to focus on what matters most to our community. Community members expect 24/7 responsiveness and city government has to adapt to a changing world.”

This budget plan for FY 2019-21 and beyond is designed to:

  • Ensure continuing excellent service and safety to our community
  • Maintain fiscal balance in a changing economy
  • Eliminate the threat of our unfunded pension liability
  • Sustain our ability to recruit and retain the best available talent
  • Invest in a 21st Century government, including the new City Hall extension, new Fire Station and City Yards project, revamping our work processes to be more efficient and better serve customers, and developing a digital City Hall using to deliver 24/7 responsiveness to our community members. 

Over the next ten years without reducing expenses, the City forecasts a budget shortfall to grow to between $34 and $47 million, driven largely by sharply rising pension costs and flattening revenues. The budget strategy aims to dramatically shrink that projected future budget shortfall through efficiencies, restructuring or phasing-out low impact activities, and considering long term changes in the ways we deliver services to be most effective and fiscally sustainable. Taking these steps now and over the next six years will ensure the City lives within its means while still allowing the City to continue addressing priorities like fighting crime, reducing homelessness, cybersecurity, and affordability.

The City Manager’s Budget recommendations are based on the Council’s adopted Framework for performance management to promote sustainability and community wellbeing. Staff has drafted a plan of action to address five of the Council’s Framework priority areas, including Affordability, Climate Change, Keeping Neighborhoods Safe, Mobility & Access, and Reducing Homelessness, while continuing to develop the plan of action for the Engaged & Thriving Community priority to be presented at a budget workshop in early June. These plans provide a view of how essential services and major capital projects tie to priorities. The plans of action also highlight new investments made towards Framework priorities, including additional homelessness outreach workers and an expansion of the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) affordability pilot program, among other investments.

The Proposed Biennial Budget will be published on May 23, 2019. Budget Study Sessions will then be held in early June before the public hearing and Budget Adoption on June 25, 2019.

The City looks forward to engaging the community in the budget process. For opportunities to get involved, share your thoughts, and provide feedback before May 23, sign up for SaMoNews, the City’s bi-weekly newsletter at   

The City of Santa Monica has a longstanding AAA bond rating by all three national credit agencies.

More Information

Staff report >

Information item on unfunded pension liability >


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