Daily Press Staff Writer
The General Fund ended the fiscal year with an extra $10.9 million more than budgeted, thanks to both extra revenue ($4.5 million) and lower expenses ($6.4 million) than initially expected, according to a new report from the City’s director of finance.
“The context for this good news is crucial,” Gigi Decavalles-Hughes wrote in the report.
“Despite concerns about a slowing in the growth of key economic drivers (particularly retail and tourism), the prior fiscal year continued to reflect the underlying strength of Santa Monica’s diversified economic base.”
Some of the extra funds will go toward the homeless crisis, new technology at City Hall like Total Workplace and $200,000 will go toward developing a long-term strategy for economic sustainability.
Decavalles-Hughes says $3.7 million will be set aside toward the construction of the Civic Center Multi-Use Sports Field.
About $1 million of the increased revenue came from hotel and parking facility taxes, although some gains were offset by lower than anticipated parking revenue and sales tax.
The remaining $3.5 million of the unexpected increase came from development-related fees, property sales, and a return of unspent contributions from EXPO.
Nearly 90 percent of department savings in the General Fund came from 121 vacant positions.
“While FY 2016-17 year-end results are better than projected, they are primarily one-time in nature and therefore would not impact those future year projections in a significant way,” Decavalles-Hughes said.
The City’s reserves will be bolstered by non-general funds, which ended the year $54.6 million over budget, according to the report.
“These funds will be used to build reserves, fund ongoing operations, and support future capital projects,” the report said.
As part of the effort to address economic changes and homelessness, the City is expected contribute about $200,000 to Santa Monica Travel and Tourism for a “destination and perception study.”
The study will survey residents, business owners and visitors on homelessness, quality of life and tourism.
The city hopes to establish benchmark data to monitor ongoing sentiment and perception of life in Santa Monica.
On Tuesday, the City Council will weigh in on how to best use $1.4 million set-aside to address homelessness, whether by pursuing regional partnerships, street outreach teams or expanding or refocusing existing resources.
“Historically, the City has made investments of land, capital funding, operational support, and significant political will to address homelessness,” the report says.
“One-time City and County funds are being used to pilot new intensive street-based services to high users of local emergency services and develop mobile technology to transform the way that City first responders and front-line staff interact with people experiencing homelessness.”
Staff also recommends appropriating $700,000 to renovate the dinosaur fountains at the Third Street Promenade and to replace equipment for Breeze Bikeshare.
After City staff reviews the end of the year budget performance, they will present their findings to the Council in January 2018.