SANTA MONICA, CA – This week, the City of Santa Monica released its proposed biennial budget for FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19. This budget introduces a new framework that aligns the City’s work using the elements of the Wellbeing Index and Sustainable City Plan. The budget maintains the City’s core services and allocates new and repurposed funding to programs that reflect the community’s priorities. Overall, the key themes of the budget are establishing measurable goals, finding efficiencies, and implementing innovations. Here’s a quick look by the numbers:
- The overall proposed budget is $773.7 million in FY 2017-18 and $802.1 million in FY 2018-19.
- This budget reflects the operating and capital activities of 31 funds across 15 departments and approximately 2,300 permanent and temporary full-time equivalent positions.
- The General Fund budget is $504.9 million in FY 2017-18 and $530.5 million in FY 2018-19.
- The General Fund capital improvement budget is $145.7 million in FY 2017-18 and $157.2 million in FY 2018-19, the second year of the capital biennial budget.
A transition in budgeting approach
The new budget was designed around themes of Wellbeing and Sustainability. With this new approach come new categories of work: Community, Place and Planet, Learning, Health, Economic Opportunity, and Governance. This framework links the results we seek to accomplish with the funding needed to achieve those results and establishes the approach we will take to measuring performance.
The reason for a transition in budget organization is to continually answer the questions: Do our goals reflect the community’s needs? Are we achieving the results we are targeting? Do our efforts make sense as a cohesive whole? Do our efforts overlap? Have programs or processes outlined their usefulness?
“To ensure long-term fiscal sustainability, we are living within our means. This budget marks a transition as we move to reduce the City’s workforce over the long term, continue to invest in vital community assets and focus our work more rigorously on the results that matter most to the wellbeing of our residents,” said City Manager Rick Cole.
We want to be the model for what public service looks like in the 21st century. To do that, we have to find new and innovative approaches to meeting the community's needs today. Here are some of the ways we propose taking this on:
- Measure performance by focusing on the strategic outcomes we are seeking to achieve.
- Improve the digital experience for residents and businesses through communication and digital services that make service delivery simple and two-way, quick communication possible.
- Eliminate bureaucratic processes that no longer serve a useful purpose.
- Adopt new technological tools to deliver results, better, faster, and more affordably.
In addition to doing business differently to find efficiencies and provide better service, the budget also includes new or augmented programs, including:
- Increased tenant protection monitoring through realigning staffing in the City Attorney's Office and Planning and Community Development Department.
- Ongoing funding to ensure Tongva and Palisades Park remain safe and welcoming for all users by hiring Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Ambassadors.
- A new Fire Cadet Program to engage local high schoolers in the fire safety field and to increase diversity in the department.
The budget plans for the future where we can anticipate a $3.8 million deficit in FY 2019-20 and almost $19 million in 2021-22 due to the 23% increase in pension costs due to policy changes from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), as well as increases in healthcare and workers' compensation costs. The City of Santa Monica demonstrates better fiscal planning than other municipalities in paying down our unfunded CalPERS liability at a rate of at least $1.3 million annually as well as by sharing costs with our workforce.
The proposed budget will be presented to City Council in study sessions on May 23 and 24, 2017. A public hearing for budget adoption will be held on June 27, 2017. All meetings will be held in City Hall Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street at 5:30 p.m.