CITY HALL — Facing a $13.2 million general fund deficit, City Hall officials have proposed a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year that they say will close the budget gap without substantial cuts to services and without layoffs or furlough days for employees.

The budget proposal, which the City Council began reviewing at a public hearing Wednesday night, contains $8.1 million in spending cuts and relies on $3 million in reserve funds to help close the gap.

Overall, projected general fund spending in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is expected to increase 1 percent from this year to $255.1 million. The overall budget for 2010-11 is projected to be $553.6 million.

City Manager Rod Gould on Wednesday called the $13.2 million deficit “significant but not crippling” and said the city will be able to avert large cuts in part because of an $8.2 million rainy day fund officials established before the recession.

“The city foresaw the slumping economy and knew that they were going to need a little bridge money to avoid making deep cuts into services when things got tough,” he said.

In coming up with $8.1 million in spending cuts, Gould said he asked department heads to prepare budget scenarios taking into account possible spending reductions of 3, 5 and 7 percent.

City Hall’s proposal, he said, embodies the priorities the council laid out in December 2009 when members asked for a budget that spares programs aimed at the most vulnerable members of the community from large cuts while putting Santa Monica on strong fiscal footing.

Gould said most of the proposed cuts will be invisible to the public.

“Most of them cut into services and supplies and the way we fund our activities,” Gould said. “It’ll make it harder for us on the inside of the organization to do our jobs,” but “service reductions are really around the edges” in the proposal.

City Hall grants to non-profit organizations distributed through the Community and Cultural Services Department will be reduced 1.5 percent under the plan, Gould said.

Under the proposal, 17.5 permanent City Hall jobs that are currently vacant would be cut, including eight police department posts. Four vacant temporary jobs and seven Redevelopment Agency positions also would be eliminated.

City Hall plans to erase the remainder of the deficit by raising an additional $1.2 million in fee increases and spending $900,000 in surplus money from this fiscal year. The proposed fee increases would apply to things like ambulance trips, car wreck clean-up and election office services.

The overall budget of $553.6 million is down .2 percent from this fiscal year.

The council will hold a second public hearing on the proposed budget at City Hall tonight.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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