CITY HALL — A challenging past several months trying to balance a budget hit by state funding cuts and drops in sales tax revenue reached a relatively satisfactory conclusion on Tuesday night when the City Council adopted a roughly half billion dollar package for fiscal 2009-10.
While City Hall was able to avoid layoffs, furloughing employees and making dramatic cuts to programs, the budget does come with increases for various fees and fines, including a 17 percent hike for certain parking violations.
Most violations will be standardized at $50, but the fines for other infractions, such as preferential parking, street sweeping and disobeyed signs, will go from $52 to $61. The increases will be in line with the changes in the Consumer Price Index since City Hall last revised the fines, city officials said.
The penalties for overdue library books will also increase from 20 cents a day to 25 cents a day for adult materials and from 10 cents a day to 15 cents a day for children. Interlibrary loan fees will also go up from $2 per request to $5, while high-resolution images will increase from $12 to $15 a file.
The council also set a new tobacco retailer license fee of $145.35, which will go into effect on July 1. The business license processing fee for tobacco retailers will also be increased from $15.80 to $25.25. The purpose of the fee is to cover the cost of enforcement and education.
One originally proposed fee hike that the council decided to exclude from the budget next year is the increases for youth sports. The revenue from the increases, estimated to bring in about $30,000, was slated to pay for a new artificial turf monitor at John Adams Middle School and Airport Park. City officials said the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District was requiring the monitor for the turf fields, which can be easily damaged with liquids other than water.
The council decided to allocate $30,000 to cover the fee increases.
The budget will also include a $50,000 construction grant for the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum and $60,000 for an environmental impact report for the proposed plastic bags ban. The museum grant is contingent on the Historical Society informing city officials on exactly how the money will be used.
Councilman Bob Holbrook said the Historical Society has fallen on tough times finding enough money to begin construction and believes the city grant will help get the ball rolling. The nonprofit organization is about $300,000 short of its target. Construction was supposed to have began several months ago.
“I think that once construction starts, it will be much like what happened with the Galen Center,” Holbrook said, referring to USC’s new basketball stadium. “Once they saw the names on the wall, we all wanted to get our names on the wall.”
Dean Kubani, the head of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, said other cities that are considering restrictions on plastic bags have expressed interest in taking part in the EIR.
If other cities pay their part for the environmental report, the savings recouped will be used toward the replacement of Oleander trees.
Councilmembers praised city staff for working to balance a budget during a financially challenging year. Department heads several months ago were asked to find 3 percent worth of reductions in this year’s budget and 5 percent for next year. Some of those recommendations were incorporated.
Three of City Hall’s bargaining units also agreed to forgo the bonuses they were to receive this year.
“The fact that we are in this difficult budget year, as the entire region and nation is, and we did this with such relative minor pain … speaks volume for the hard work of our staff,” Mayor Ken Genser said.