SANTA MONICA—During a special study session on April 30, staff for the city of Santa Monica previewed the strategy for its budget for the next two fiscal years as part of a six-year strategy. According to the city of Santa Monica website, City Council members asked a wide range of questions about aspects of the overall plan in anticipation of the release of the Proposed FY 2019-21 Biennial Budget on Thursday, May 23. City Council welcomes community input during the budget process prior to their final decisions on June 25.

The proposed budget will deliver stronger service and safety to the community while addressing the fiscal challenges generated by flattening revenues and increases in expenditures. It puts forward a plan to pay down the City’s unfunded pension liability to save over $100 million in interest costs over 30 years.

The approach to the budget does three things: (1) leverages performance management through the Framework for a Sustainable City of Wellbeing to deliver the most effective services where they make the greatest impact, (2) finds new ways to do things more efficiently, and (3) looks at long-term changes that will help us invest in 21st Century government.

“This budget aims to build a 21st Century government,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “We are scrutinizing all our functions, using performance metrics to focus on what matters most to our community. Community members expect 24/7 responsiveness and city government has to adapt to a changing world.”

This budget plan for FY 2019-21 and beyond is designed to:

-Ensure continuing excellent service and safety to our community

-Maintain fiscal balance in a changing economy

-Eliminate the threat of our unfunded pension liability

-Sustain our ability to recruit and retain the best available talent

-Invest in a 21st Century government, including the new City Hall extension, new Fire Station and City Yards project, revamping our work processes to be more efficient and better serve customers, and developing a digital City Hall using to deliver 24/7 responsiveness to our community members.

Over the next 10 years without reducing expenses, Santa Monica forecasts a budget shortfall to grow to between $34 and $47 million, driven by sharply rising pension costs and flattening revenues. The budget aims to shrink the projected future budget shortfall through efficiencies, restructuring or phasing-out low impact activities, and considering long term changes in the ways we deliver services to be most effective and fiscally sustainable. Taking these steps over the next six years will help the city lives within its means, while allowing Santa Monica to continue addressing priorities like fighting crime, reducing homelessness, cybersecurity, and affordability.

The City Manager’s Budget recommendations are based on the City Council’s adopted framework for performance management to promote sustainability and community wellbeing. Staff drafted a plan of action to address five of the Council’s Framework priority areas, including Affordability, Climate Change, Keeping Neighborhoods Safe, Mobility & Access, and Reducing Homelessness. The plans of action highlight new investments made towards Framework priorities, including additional homelessness outreach workers and an expansion of the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) affordability pilot program, among other investments.

The Proposed Biennial Budget will be published on May 23. Budget Study Sessions will be held in early June before the public hearing and Budget Adoption on June 25.

The city of Santa Monica is asking for the community’s input on the budget process. To share thoughts, and provide feedback before May 23, sign up for SaMoNews, the City’s bi-weekly newsletter at