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Council Weighs in on Nearly $1.5 Billion Proposed Biennial Budget

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By Jorge Casuso

June 2, 2023 -- Last week, the City Council weighed in on a proposed biennial budget totaling more than $1.487 billion, an increase of some $114 million over the previous two-year fiscal budget.

The proposed budget -- expected to be approved on June 27 -- reflects a recovering local economy weighed down by a $229,825,000 settlement of sexual abuse cases ("Council Votes to Settle Remaining Sexual Abuse Cases for $122.5 Million," April 25, 2023).

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"The Budget provides a plan, built upon priorities, to continue to rebuild and restore services notwithstanding economic uncertainty and disruption," City officials said after vote.

The uncertainty and disruption stem from "geopolitical unrest, consumer behavior changes, inflation, labor shortages, and the trailing impacts of the pandemic," officials said.

"Despite these challenges, the City has weathered financial blows over the past three years from the pandemic and has closure on the resolution of significant legal liabilities."

The total proposed budget of $740.9 million in FY 2023-24 and $746.4 million in FY 2024-25 "reflects ongoing enhancements as the City continues its recovery," officials said.

"New revenue sources are identified from voter approved measures, public and private partnerships, rate adjustments, reallocated funding, and successful grant applications."

The budget reflects two of the Council's top priorities -- addressing a persistent homeless problem and curbing an increase in both serious and petty crimes.

The budget includes a newly created a Housing and Human Services Department that will become "the organization point" for homelessness services and programs and allocates new tax dollars to fund expanded programs ("Council Creates Department to Focus on Housing and Homelessness," March 13, 2023).

The budget also includes enhanced patrol and security services at the Pier, Beach, Downtown and on buses ("Council Beefs Up Security at Pier, Downtown Parks," May 24, 2023).

It also expands maintenance teams for public spaces and further restores youth programs and library hours slashed after the General Fund lost $180 million in revenues due to the coronavirus shutdown in March 2020.

The proposed budget also creates a small businesses assistance program and establishes a Citywide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)coordinator.

In addition it continues work on long-term action plans to support zero waste, sustainable water and electrification of the City’s fleet.

After taking public input during the Budget Study Session last Tuesday and Wednesday the Council also directed staff to add a number of items to the proposed budget.

The Santa Monica Conservancy successfully lobbied the Council to establish monthly meetings for the Landmarks Commission and waive application fees for non-profits and Landmarks Commissioners for Landmark Designations and Certificates of Appropriateness.

The Council also directed staff to restore the City Traffic Engineer, "which will enhance the City’s ability to deliver mobility projects," City officials said.

These include "Safe Routes to School capital improvements, Vision Zero projects to eliminate fatal and severe injury crashes, and develop a multi-year traffic signal preventative maintenance program."

In addition, the Council directed staff to include funding in the budget to invest in technology to enhance community safety and to support after-school academic programs.

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