Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series that tracks the city’s expenditures appearing on upcoming Santa Monica City Council consent agendas. Consent agenda items are routinely passed by the City Council with little or no discussion from elected officials or the public. However, many of the items have been part of public discussion in the past.

CITY HALL — Even as cities look for ways to conserve precious dollars, costs on essentials are going up.

The City Council will be asked to approve a $17.3 million expenditure on health contracts for municipal employees for the 2012 calendar year, an 11 percent increase from the year before.

Gallagher Insurance Services, Inc., a fee-based insurance brokerage firm, negotiates insurance rates for City Hall.

After discovering that CIGNA, the company that currently provides medical insurance, was projected to raise fees by approximately 19.6 percent, city officials asked Gallagher to put out a request for proposal and reach out to Aetna, the previous carrier.

In that process, Aetna demonstrated a stronger showing of primary care physicians and access to care, as well as a cheaper plan overall.

According to the staff report, City Hall will save $1,331,829 by going with Aetna rather than CIGNA, although costs will be 11 percent higher than in the previous year.

The contract comprises the majority of costs in the consent agenda, which totals $17,471,384 in expenditures and $12,010 in revenue.

Historic costs

City Hall proposes to lose $127,262 in property tax revenue over the next 10 years in the name of historic preservation.

Staff have put three homes and one commercial property up for consideration for Mills Act contracts, which would lock in lower property tax rates in exchange for a promise to protect, maintain and restore the historic property.

If owners sign the contracts, their property values would be based on operating income rather than the home or business’s assessed value.

Each Mills Act contract works on a 10-year cycle.

Staff estimates that the four new contracts will result in property tax reductions between 61 and 79 percent, according to the staff report.

To qualify, property owners must get a certificate of appropriateness and building permits for work proposed in a required maintenance plan which itself must abide by the rules for historic preservation set forth by the federal Secretary of the Interior.

The three homes are located at 1063 26th St., 2504 Third St. and 2616 to 2618 Third St. The office building is at 1501 to 1515 Fourth St.

Recycling

The City Council is expected to approve a change order to a trucking company to haul and recycle concrete and asphalt waste.

Alley improvements and a recent emergency waterline repair job have left the Department of Public Works with an unusual amount of asphalt and concrete on its hands, and no space in the City Yards for the excess.

City Hall already contracts with the Saied Trucking Co. to remove asphalt and concrete by-products and take them to Recycled Aggregate Materials Co. in Sun Valley or Vulcan Materials Co. for recycling.

The previous $92,000 contract was based on volume, which will be exceeded with this load.

Staff requested an additional $29,410, bringing the total cost of the contract to $121,410.

‘Tis the season

City Hall will be padding its pockets a bit around the holidays by renting out a lot near Santa Monica’s eastern border for the sale of Christmas trees if the City Council gives the OK.

Staff listed the lot at 12040 to 12048 Wilshire Blvd. online and sent the information to four Christmas tree lot operators.

Chauvet Tree Farms, a Nevada-based company, proposed to run the lot for tree sales from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for a $12,010 fee.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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