As part of Santa Monica City’s restructuring process, staff has proposed restoration of certain key City services for approval at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 26. The City’s restructuring plan, approved by the City Council on May 5th, reduces the scope of City operations in response to the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including a $224 million budget deficit.
A handful of priority community services were identified by Council at their May 5 meeting for continuation through $2 million of unprogrammed funds. Through additional contributions from the Housing Trust Fund, federal block grants, and recaptured costs, a total of $6.4 million will be allocated to these important areas.
“City staff have worked creatively and collaboratively to develop a restoration plan that serves to preserve highly valued City services in the midst of the historic crisis caused by COVID-19,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg. “Based on Council direction and extensive community input, this plan also leverages available federal resources and other funds to keep our public spaces vibrant and our most vulnerable residents safe in their homes as we work together to build our recovery.”
Here’s what will be presented to Council on Tuesday for inclusion in the proposed FY 2020-21 budget:
Food security for our most vulnerable community members:
- The Westside Food Bank and Meals on Wheels West would receive a total of $20,107.
Keeping people in their homes through increased support for the Preserving Our Diversity senior housing subsidy program and restoring funding to the Legal Aid Foundation:
- The Preserving Our Diversity cash subsidy program for low-income seniors in rent controlled housing would be expanded using the Housing Trust Fund. The expansion would support between 250 and 450 senior households and restores two limited term staff positions.
- Rental assistance for approximately 307 eligible Santa Monica households for a three-month period would be provided through $1,605,265 in federal Community Development Block Grants funds made available in the CARES Act, as well as $230,000 from the general fund and $21,534 from a Council discretionary fund previously dedicated for DACA application support.
- Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles funding would be restored in the amount of $51,350. LAFLA provides approximately 900 Santa Monicans receive free legal aid.
Funding for youth-related programs, such as after-school programs and mental health support services:
- The CREST Club afterschool program, which provides safe care for children from school dismissal until 6 p.m., would be maintained at its current capacity of 420 participants through an allocation of $129,396 to support 3.23 as-needed positions.
- Virginia Avenue Park Parent Groups – The Parent Connection Group and Familias Latinas Unidas have a combined 67 registered participants. Funding of $20,000 would be continued to support these parent enrichment programs.
- PAL Youth Center hours would be increased with access to the dance and art rooms as well as the gymnasium. This would serve 657 participants at a cost of $133,996, including one permanent position and 0.75 as-needed positions.
Resources for outdoor health, such as playgrounds and fields, including the Playground Partnership program with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD):
- A Playground Partnership with SMMUSD and field monitoring for City-owned field space are proposed to be restored to continue to serve thousands of youth and permitted field time to Santa Monica based athletic organizations and sports groups. These partnerships would continue at a total cost of $139,819, including one permanent and 2.9 as-needed positions.
- Programming at the Santa Monica Swim Center, which will re-open under reduced hours, would be restored. Programming would be phased in, based upon County guidelines, and prioritize access for individual health and wellness activities, with a progression towards permitting to larger groups as restrictions are lifted and space allows. Increasing hours has a cost, net of anticipated revenues, of $13,985 and .8 permanent positions and 1.95 as-needed positions.
- Memorial Park Gym and Skate Park Drop-In Programs serve thousands of residents per year for a combined average of approximately 1,000 visits per day. The cost of the additional 0.25 as-needed hours will be completely offset by the added revenue with the cost of continuing service totaling $10,587.
- Restorations of six permanent Public Works Department staff members will allow tennis courts, basketball courts, and turf fields to be restored to 100% operations when it’s safe to do so. The Virginia Avenue Park splash pad will also reopen when permitted under public health guidance.
- The Community Gardens program is maintained with the restoration of staff with gardening expertise to coordinate the program as part of the City’s sustainability program, at a cost of $77,487 net of additional revenues and one permanent position.
Mobility programs with an emphasis providing safe, sustainable, affordable and accessible transportation choices :
- The Vision Zero program to eliminate roadway fatalities would be continued through incident evaluation, engineering, education, encouragement and engagement with 1.5 permanent positions.
- The Transportation Demand Management program to support medium and large employers (over 50 employees), to reduce vehicle trips into Santa Monica, and an increase in the attractiveness of walking, biking, carpooling, transit and other modes would be supported through restoration of two permanent positions.
Sustainability with an emphasis on community resilience:
- Climate resiliency policy and program work to advance the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan would be restored in the amount of $183,544 and one permanent positions.
- Water conservation with a focus on water neutrality for Santa Monica’s 18,000 water account holders would be restored in the amount of $144,990 and one permanent position.
Staff is also proposing that Council consider an updated Community Services Pricing Policy to simplify the methodology and allow for more flexibility in determining the extent to which programs and permits should be subsidized by the City’s General Fund versus being covered by user fees. Using this policy as a guide, staff will conduct a comprehensive fee study next fiscal year for CREST Club, field permit monitoring, and aquatic permits. While costs will increase, they won’t reach full program cost recovery and they will continue to be accessible to low-income households. An updated fee schedule will be included with the proposed FY 2021-23 biennial budget.
The staff report also includes a recommendation to allocate $500,000 of Private Percent from Arts Funds from the Cultural Arts Trust Fund to artists and the creative sectors is included to support and implement recovery projects in the spirit of the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project. Funding will be provided to artists and nonprofits to implement projects that serve economic recovery goals and promote cross-sector partnerships. Examples include art in or on vacant storefronts, artist-designed social distancing markers, and arts activities that could be included with pick-up orders at local businesses. A call for artistic proposals would be issued in July, following adoption of the FY 2020-21 budget.
Following consideration of this staff proposal on May 26th, the Santa Monica City Budget Study session is scheduled for the June 9th Council Meeting and budget adoption is slated for Council approval at its meeting on June 23, 2020.