City Hall (File photo)

City Council will set priorities for the City of Santa Monica’s 2019-2021 budget Saturday using results from a community survey conducted over the last month.

Council will select three to six goals the City will prioritize in its budget, which will go into effect July 1. The City conducted a survey in December and January called SaMoSays that asked the community to select five areas they would like the City to devote more resources to from a list of 23 priorities, such as infrastructure and business diversity. Staff is also recommending Council add a 24th goal to that list: advancing a new model of mobility.

The 2,800 people who took the survey rated neighborhood safety, homelessness and affordability as their chief priorities. Transportation, environmental health and overdevelopment were also common concerns.

Participants had the opportunity to write in priorities rather than choose from the 23 goals. About 150 people wrote in mobility and 100 added overdevelopment.

Council will choose the priorities as part of a shift to a performance-based City budget, in which most services the City provides will be organized under the 24 outcomes. The new format will gather services under those categories and include metrics that track success.

For example, to meet the outcome of keeping neighborhoods safe, the City will track property crimes vs. violent crimes and crimes per 1,000 residents. The budget would include investigating crimes and integrating new technology to reduce crime.

City Manager Rick Cole said the new approach will allow the City to spend money more efficiently – a necessary step given that it will have to spend more money than it earns throughout the 2020s.

City revenue is expected to fall over the next 10 years as fewer people shop in brick-and-mortar stores or use public parking. At the same time, the City will be aggressively paying down its unfunded pension liability, a $467 million shortfall between the value of its pension fund and the amount it must pay out to former employees. The City’s total budget is $700 million.

Moving to a performance-based budget will allow the City to invest more money in achieving the goals the community cares most about while scaling back services that don’t work toward those goals, Cole said.

“We need to really focus in on the things with the biggest impact,” he said.

Homelessness will be a key budget priority but it doesn’t fit neatly into one City department, Cole said. A traditional budget allocates money to departments rather than to outcomes.

“If we started the city today thinking the same way we thought 100 years ago … we would have a department of homelessness, the same way we have a police department and a fire department,” he said. “Today, rather than start a new department, what we want to do is have a budget that can measure things across departments.”

Council will meet 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Broad Stage at 1310 11th Street.

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