Dark clouds are gathering. I’m talking about the looming $13.2 million budget gap City Hall faces by 2017.
Although it appears that the city should have a balanced budget for the next two fiscal years, the hammer could start dropping in 2015-16. City officials are in disaster mode planning — eyeing cuts and instituting new fees in preparation for the approaching fiscal storm.
The proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year is nearly $530 million; $306.1 million is for General Fund expenditures which cover basic services such as police, fire, street and park maintenance, city payroll and pensions and a whole slew of educational and human services and cultural/arts programs.
The key reasons given for the oncoming deficits are rising pensions costs and the loss of redevelopment agency funding.
City officials, including politicians, have never shied away from spending money. There’s the $50 million for the new Tongva Park. Another $100 million for affordable housing for the next couple of years. City Hall committed over $100 million, including interest, recently to purchase three acres of Downtown property between Fourth and Fifth streets and Arizona Avenue that they had no plans or need for.
City Hall’s been on a spending spree for years, like a spoiled teenager on the loose with mother’s credit card. Looking back to November 2010, I’m betting the family Prius that there may be some regrets about giving the school district $6 million, or half of the annual revenue from Measure Y, a half cent sales-use tax increase.
Take it back. There are no regrets because the fallback position is to raise fees and recoup losses from us. It’s why nobody in City Hall has a stomach for belt tightening or fat trimming.
A number of fee increases are on the table for the Tuesday and Wednesday night council meetings specifically called to analyze the budget. They include raising annual neighborhood parking permits from $15 to $25, establishing a $25 fee for candidates to file required election paperwork, a $25 charge for a non-resident library card and a charge to use library computers.
If council approves, neighborhood block parties will cost $227 in the future — a 1,285 percent increase! And City Hall is considering 350 new parking meters that are expected to generate $600,000 in additional annual revenue for City Hall.
Additional fees and/or increases will affect building and construction projects, false fire alarm response and fire department inspections. Hold on to your wallet, folks. It’s only just begun.
Remembering Art Verge
I have a passing to note this Memorial Day. Lifelong Santa Monica resident and local hero, Dr. Arthur C. (Art) Verge died on April 28 at 85 years of age.
Born in Santa Monica, his ancestral roots go back to the early days of the Marquez family Rancho Boca de Santa Monica. He attended St. Monica Catholic High School and at 17, Art joined the U.S. Navy to serve his country during World War II.
After Art returned from service, he finished high school at St. Monica and began his advanced education at St. Mary’s College of California. While there, he met Margaret Ann McMcInnis. It was love at first sight and they were married for 61 glorious years.
Because Art was on the swim team at St. Mary’s, he obtained a job as a Santa Monica lifeguard and junior lifeguard instructor from 1949 to 1964. In the meantime, he began his teaching career at Cathedral High School in East Los Angeles.
His reputation as a top-notch instructor, coupled with his Santa Monica lifeguard duties, garnered him an interview with the Santa Monica School District. He was hired and taught in Santa Monica schools for over 50 years — first at John Adams Middle School and later at Santa Monica College, where for 40 years he taught history and speech to generations of students.
Somehow, Art found the time to continue his education and earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Oregon State University. Dr. Verge traveled extensively around the world with his family and those experiences led him to help establish international student and study abroad programs at SMC.
He also took on administrative duties at the college and derived his greatest personal satisfaction from working with at-risk students. He volunteered his time for the Catholic Youth Organization, Santa Monica Kiwanis Club (where he was a 45-year member) and the YMCA Breakfast Club.
The Verge household was always open to numerous young people as Art’s kids grew up. One of the “urchins” the Verges befriended was Doug O’Neill, who trained 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. That racing victory brought great joy to Art in his waning years.
Arthur Verge is survived by his wife, Margie, and his sons Arthur, Mark and Patrick, and daughters Suzanne and Annette and their spouses and seven grandchildren. A son Peter passed away in 1978.
I remember seeing Art at the Santa Monica Family YMCA where he was one of the regulars. He’d come in early in the morning and ride the stationary bicycles. He always had a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye and a good word for everyone. I and many others will miss him.
His memorial service is being held at 3 p.m. today, Monday, at St. Monica Catholic Church.
They just don’t make them like Arthur Verge anymore. R.I.P., Art. You did well.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org