SANTA MONICA—The city of Santa Monica released its proposed biennial budget for FY (Fiscal Year) 2017-2018 and FY 2018-2019 this week, according to a press release from the city. The budget introduces a new framework with elements of the Wellbeing Index, which provides an understanding of the community’s wellbeing, and the Sustainable City Plan, which helps the community act more sustainably while evaluating long-term impacts of its decisions.

The budget distributes new and repurposed funding to programs reflecting Santa Monica’s priorities, while maintaining the city’s core services. The budget intends to establish measurable goals, find efficiencies, and implement innovations.

The overall proposed budget is $773.7 million in FY 2017-2018 and $802.1 million in FY 2018-2019, which reflects the operating and capital activities of 31 funds over 15 departments and about 2,300 permanent and temporary full-time equivalent positions. The General Fund budget is $504.9 million in FY 2017-2018 and $530.5 million in FY 2018-2019. The general Fund capital improvement budget is $145.7 million in FY 2017-2018 and $157.2 million in FY 2018-2019.

Designed around the themes of Wellbeing and Sustainability, the new budget comes with new categories: Community, Place and Planet, Learning, Health, Economic Opportunity, and Governance. The framework links the results the city strives to reach with the funding necessary to achieve those results, guiding the approach needed to measure performance.

This transition in budget organization is needed to determine that the City’s goals reflect the community’s needs; that they are achieving the targeted results; that their efforts overlap and make sense as a whole; and that programs have 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.

Santa Monica strives to be the model for what public service looks like in the 21st century and is searching for innovative methods to satisfy the community’s needs. Proposals for such approaches include measuring performance by focusing on strategic outcomes; improving digital experiences through services that make service delivery simple and communication more efficient; eliminating bureaucratic processes that are no longer useful; and adopting new technological tools to deliver results in better, faster, and more affordable ways.

The budget also introduces new or augmented programs. Tenant protection monitoring will be increased through the realignment of staffing in the City Attorney’s Office and Planning and Community Development Department. Tongva and Palisades Parks will remain safe and welcoming to visitors through ongoing funding, under Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Ambassadors. A new Fire Cadet Program will be initiated to engage high school students in fire safety and to encourage diversity in the department.

Santa Monica is anticipating a $3.8 million deficit in FY 2019-2020 and nearly $19 million in FY 2021-2020, due to the 23 percent increase in pension costs. The increase was brought about by policy changes from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), which manages pension and health benefits for California employees and retirees. There have also been increases in healthcare and workers’ compensation costs.

The budget takes these future challenges into consideration. Santa Monica achieves better fiscal planning than other municipalities, as the city pays down its unfunded CalPERS liability at a rate of at least $1.3 million each year.

The proposed budget will be presented to City Council on Tuesday, May 23, and Wednesday, May 24. A public hearing for budget adoption will take place on Tuesday, June 27. The meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers, at 1685 Main Street.

For additional information on the proposed budget, visit here.

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