Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Santa Monica City Council will vote Tuesday whether to allocate $6.4 million in funding to programs that would otherwise be on the chopping block as the city seeks to bridge a $224 million budget deficit.

With its tax revenues cratering because of the coronavirus shutdown and recession, the city is in the process of laying off or buying out nearly 400 employees and cutting $86.2 million in ongoing spending. City Council voted earlier this month to begin the layoff process and distribute $2 million in unallocated funding to save programs that city staff had proposed scaling back or eliminating.

The budget plan city leadership released earlier this month was met with criticism from city staff and residents who felt the city could have taken measures such as pay cuts or furloughs to preserve jobs and programs.

Interim City Manager Lane Dilg has maintained that the city must restructure its operations because the pandemic’s lasting impacts on sales and hotel tax revenues will result in a $224 million deficit over the next two fiscal years.

Dilg said the funding plan the council will vote on Tuesday at a virtual meeting leverages an additional $4.4 million in federal resources and other funds to restore a total of $5.9 million in funding to housing, youth, recreational, mobility and sustainability programs.

“City staff have worked creatively and collaboratively to develop a restoration plan that serves to preserve highly valued city services in the midst of the historic crisis caused by COVID-19,” Dilg said in a statement. “Based on council direction and extensive community input, this plan … (keeps) our public spaces vibrant and our most vulnerable residents safe in their homes as we work together to build our recovery.”

Housing and food assistance

The city would expand its Preserving Our Diversity (POD) rent subsidy program for low-income seniors to anywhere from 250 to 450 households. Two as-needed staff would support the program.

An additional 307 eligible households — not just elderly residents — would receive rental assistance for three months through a $1.6 million fund made available in the CARES Act and $250,000 in city funding.

More than $51,000 in funding would be restored the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which provides 900 Santa Monicans with free legal aid, often representing them in housing matters.

The Westside Food Bank and Meals on Wheels West would receive a total of $20,000.

Under the proposed budget, the city would cut 12% in funding to 20 human services organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness, vulnerable youth, people with disabilities and seniors.

Youth and recreational programs

The CREST afterschool program would be maintained at its current capacity of 420 participants with about $129,000 to support 3.23 as-needed positions.

Santa Monica Police Activities League Youth Center hours would be increased with access to the center’s dance and art rooms as well as the gymnasium. The center would serve 657 youth at a cost of about $134,000, including one permanent and 0.75 as-needed positions.

Virginia Avenue Park’s parent groups, The Parent Connection Group and Familias Latinas Unidas, would receive $20,000 in continued funding. The programs have a combined 67 participants.

Youth and athletic organizations would be able to keep using fields at local public schools. The city would continue to support the program with about $140,000 to fund one permanent and 2.9 as-needed positions.

The Santa Monica Swim Center will reopen under reduced hours based on guidelines from public health officials. The center will receive about $14,000, 0.8 permanent and 1.95 as-needed positions.

Memorial Park’s gym and skate park drop-in programs, which serve about 1,000 visitors per day, would continue. The cost of the additional 0.25 as-needed hours will be offset by added revenue, so continuing service will cost a little more than $10,000.

Basketball courts, tennis courts and turf fields will be maintained at current funding levels. The community gardens program will continue with one permanent staffer and about $77,000 in funding.

The Santa Monica Public Library would lose 40% of its budget and 26.5 full-time and 80 as-needed positions if the council approves the budget as proposed.

Mobility and sustainability

The Vision Zero program, which seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities, would be supported with 1.5 permanent staffers who would continue evaluating crash data, engineering roadway improvements and conducting educational outreach to residents.

The transportation demand management program, which helps employers reduce car commuting, would continue with two permanent positions. The city would maintain some funding for GoSaMo, the city-funded organization that supports employers in meeting the city’s transportation requirements.

The city would dedicate more than $183,000 and one permanent staffer to advance the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and about $145,000 and one permanent staffer to continue the city’s water conservation efforts.

Other proposals

City staff recommend that City Council allocate $500,000 in available arts funds to artists and nonprofits to create recovery projects in the spirit of the Works Progress Administration. Projects could include art in or on vacant storefronts, social distancing markers and arts activities that could be included with pick-up orders at local businesses.

Staff is also proposing that the council authorize a fee study next fiscal year for CREST and field and aquatic permits. Staff said the costs of the programs will increase but continue to be accessible to lower-income households.

The council will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to allocate the $5.9 million in funding and hold a study session on the 2020-2021 budget June 9.

madeleine@smdp.com

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