Santa Monica City Council approved Tuesday a plan to restore $6.4 million in funding to programs that city staff had proposed eliminating to fill a $224 million budget deficit over the next two years.
The city also released a draft budget for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, showing that about 469 city employees have been bought out or laid off — 20% of its former workforce of 2,298 full-time equivalent positions. The $607.4 million budget proposed for next fiscal year is nearly 25% smaller than last year’s budget, and projected revenues will be 20% smaller at $537.6 million.
City Council allocated $6.4 million in funding to continue supporting programs that city staff had proposed eliminating, but several members of the public asked councilmembers to go further, asking them to save crossing guards and CREST’s afterschool playground, sports and homework programs.
Community members also asked the city to maintain funding for the Santa Monica Public Library and mental health counseling for youth.
Interim City Manager Lane Dilg asked the community come together to preserve certain programs that the city budget can no longer support. The Santa Monica Police Department is working to redesign the crossing guards program, she added.
“We know you love these programs,” she said. “If we’re not able to provide these programs in our foundational budget, we need you to work as a community to find other ways to provide those services.”
Dilg said she would like to see residents donate directly to social services organizations that will see a 12% reduction in grant funding from the city under the proposed budget.
“There is no secret pool of money from which we can pull,” Dilg said. “It’s a zero sum game.”
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. An additional 307 eligible households — not just elderly residents — would receive rental assistance for three months.
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 defending them against attempted evictions.
The Westside Food Bank and Meals on Wheels West would receive a total of $20,000.
Youth and recreational programs
The CREST afterschool program would be maintained at its current capacity of 420 participants. Santa Monica Police Activities League Youth Center hours would be increased, with access to the center’s dance and art rooms and gymnasium. Youth and athletic organizations would be able to keep using fields at local public schools.
The Santa Monica Swim Center will reopen under reduced hours based on guidelines from public health officials, and Memorial Park’s gym and skate park drop-in programs, which serve about 1,000 visitors per day, would continue.
Basketball courts, tennis courts, turf fields and the Virginia Avenue Park splash pad will be reopened when it is safe to do so. The community gardens program will also be maintained.
Mobility and sustainability
The Vision Zero program, which seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities, and the transportation demand management program, which helps employers reduce car commuting, would both continue. GoSaMo, the city-funded organization that supports employers in meeting the city’s transportation requirements, would receive 40% of its usual funding.
The city would retain one employee to advance the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and another to continue water conservation efforts.
Half a million in available arts funds will be allocated 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.
City Council will hold a study session on the 2020-2021 budget June 9.