Santa Monica City Council Reviews Year-End Financial Health and Addresses Community Needs
October 28, 2020 10:34 AM
Last night, the Santa Monica City Council reviewed and closed out the fiscal year 2019-20 budget and modified the fiscal year 2020-21 budget based on updated financial projections.
Following extensive efforts earlier this year to address the economic impacts of COVID-19, the City’s fiscal health is stable. Fiscal year 2019-20 actuals are in line with June 2020 updated financial projections that anticipated steep decreases in City revenues necessitating the organizational restructuring. Revenues were marginally better than anticipated due to the early phased reopening of the economy, some hotels remaining open, and fewer people than anticipated deferring taxes and other payments. With this, Council approved budget changes to address deficits for fiscal year 2019-20, moving less than anticipated – $30 million rather than $42 million as anticipated – in reserves to cover the shortfall caused by the pandemic.
For fiscal year 2020-21, following measures taken earlier this year, the citywide budget is $192.3 million less than the fiscal year 2019-20 Revised Budget and has 298.8 fewer full-time permanent positions and 122.3 fewer full-time equivalent as-needed positions. Within the General Fund, budget reductions reflect a 23.9% reduction from the previously approved fiscal year 2019-20 Revised Budget. Staff project that the City’s revenues will recover to pre-COVID-19 levels in fiscal year 2024-25.
“While economic instability persists for local governments, the City continues to make prudent financial decisions to ensure the long-term fiscal health of Santa Monica,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg. “With $1.14 million in federal CARES Act funding, we will also be able to address critical community needs as we continue to advocate for meaningful stimulus funds for emergency response and recovery.”
Based on its current financial position, the City is able to allocate $1.14 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to address critical service needs on a one-time basis. Council approved the following allocations to address community priorities:
- Funds to support enhancements to mental health services and access to care for vulnerable populations and people experiencing homelessness, including potentially piloting an alternative dispatch emergency response model ($400,000).
- Additional funding for the Economic Recovery Fund for additional assistance to the community and to expand outdoor dining spaces on Ocean Avenue, which requires the temporary construction of sidewalk expansions into the existing parking lane ($280,000).
- Funds to assist with continued response to the pandemic, including personal protective equipment and other supplies and resources not reimbursed by FEMA which are needed for reopening and running operations in the time of COVID-19 ($159,344).
- Reinstatement, through the end of the fiscal year, of contracted weekend trash service to allow existing Public Landscape Division and Resource, Recovery and Recycling staff to address higher than anticipated trash volumes throughout the City ($134,000).
- Expansion of the existing COVID-19 Health Ambassador Program to monitor open spaces and park settings as parks reopen ($77,000).
- Hiring of as-needed Library Pages to assist with Library curbside service and programming ($50,000).
- Expanding outreach services provided by West Coast Care to individuals experiencing homelessness ($30,000).
- Purchase of a truck-mounted pressure washer to assist with cleaning pedestrian, playground and restroom areas ($10,000).
In addition to increased funds being provided to West Coast Care to connect homeless individuals in the beach and Pier areas with family reunification and service options, the existing partnership with West Coast Care will shift from the Police Department to the Fire Department, which will now have a permanent presence on the beach in Fire Station 7, a successful pilot initiated last year.
Redesignation of the West Coast Care partnership and the allocation of $400,000 to be used for mental health services for homeless and other vulnerable populations are among the initial steps the City is taking to employ alternate approaches to emergency response that do not involve law enforcement personnel.
With the year-end budget, Council also moved forward plans to create a new City department wholly devoted to Santa Monica’s comprehensive vision for sustainable, multi-modal transportation. This department will combine Big Blue Bus’s experience as an innovator in sustainable transportation with the vision of the Mobility Division (currently part of the Community Development Department) as the City continues to lead the way in planning complete streets across mass transit, shared mobility, biking, and ultimately new modes of transportation. The integration of these work functions will improve customer service and help leverage additional transportation grant funding. Similar models are in place in San Francisco and Oakland.
"Bringing Santa Monica’s exceptional Mobility and Big Blue Bus teams together will allow us to advance transformative green street projects and the kind of long-range planning essential to safe, car-light living and cutting carbon emissions,” said Dilg. “There is a lot to be excited about with the expansion of the battery electric bus fleet, Vision Zero efforts, and protected bike lines coming in the next few years.”
The new department will take shape in December 2020 and will include Big Blue Bus, Mobility, and Parking Operations. Council directed staff to explore the creation of a Mobility Commission as part of broader discussions about City Boards and Commissions.