In a Tuesday night meeting, City Council prepares to pass a revised $665.3 million annual budget for Fiscal Year 2022 to 2023.
Although the budget appears large, the remainders of pandemic induced financial hardship combined with historically high inflation means that the rebound in revenue will not translate into a full restoration of City services.
Council first discussed the budget in a May 28 meeting. For the most part, recovering budget revenue streams will be allocated to needs that residents won’t immediately see such as staff pay raises, the replenishing of reserves and the resumption of equipment replacement. More visible changes include funding to continue the Pier Vending Task Force for a year and limited capital improvements.
Other needs such as funding more affordable housing, restoring hours at the library, and hiring more public safety personnel remain unfunded.
The revised budget does reflect an additional $533,000 in expenditures, of which $400,000 will go to restoring supervised after school playtime programs at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s seven elementary schools. This was a priority highlighted by Councilmembers in the initial budget discussion.
This increase in expenditures will be funded in part by revenues from a new parklet program that is also on Tuesday’s agenda. This parklet program will charge restaurants to rent parking spots and continue the popular outdoor dining spaces that have been provided on a free pilot basis since the start of the pandemic.
The parklet program is scheduled to begin on October 1 and estimated to generate approximately $241,600 in licensing and inspection fees for the City.
While this revenue boost will be very welcome, it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what the City needs to restore services to pre-pandemic levels.
In an effort to speed up the rate at which revenue grows, the City Council is considering placing several tax measures on the November ballot. Two of these potential measures are the pet project of specific Councilmembers, while the third is a staff suggestion.
The staff suggested measure—an increase in Transient Occupancy Tax—is on the Tuesday agenda for Council approval. The measure would increase TOT by one percent for hotels and three percent for home shares.
As a result, Santa Monica would have a 15 percent hotel TOT and a 17 percent homeshare TOT. If passed by voters, the City would have some of the highest TOT rates in the state, but would not be out of the range of rates in other major tourist destinations.
The measure would provide an estimated $4.1 million in annual revenue. Staff suggest this money be allocated towards expansion of the police department’s Homeless Liaison Program and Downtown Services Unit; expansion of the City’s homeless multidisciplinary outreach teams; and expansion of service hours at the SAMOSHEL homeless shelter.
There’s also a request to study Santa Monica’s history on the agenda.
Councilmembers Phil Brock, Oscar de la Torre and Christine Parra are asking for $10,000 to have the City Attorney’s office conduct a legal review of an 1888 document establishing the rights of disabled veterans to access the coast.
Arcadia Bandini was a wealthy landowner and socialite who helped found Santa Monica with several land donations. She is also responsible for deeding 300 acres of land for a “soldiers home” in what became West L.A. and the request to Council this week is to determine if requirements for veteran services were also part of the donations to what became Santa Monica.
The request for action in the agenda includes
“Assess the need to issue an RFP to create a green, sustainable, complex for Veterans on the designated site or assess how funds generated from these properties might support much-needed services for our unhoused disabled veterans.”
The meeting will begin with closed session at 5:30 p.m. and can be streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/user/Citytv16santamonica.