Council Asks for More Money for Preservation, Libraries and Security in Next Year’s Budget.

Date:

The City Council will vote on the 2023-2024 fiscal year budget at its June 27th meeting. City staff first presented a draft of next year’s budget at its May 24th meeting, where it received feedback from the council and other stakeholders.

The Council made several requests to the city following public testimony from librarians, historic preservationists and a coalition arguing the city needs a detailed plan on restoring funds taken from dedicated taxes during the pandemic. At a “working session” last week, staff presented an updated budget that mostly addressed the concerns of the preservationists and librarians but have yet to provide a firm timeline on returning the funds originally dedicated to cleaning water and building more affordable housing.

At the May 27th meeting, the Santa Monica Conservancy outlined a plan to restore the city’s historic preservation program to its pre-pandemic levels and the Council heard their recommendations and has asked city staff to prioritize:

  • Monthly meetings for the Landmarks Commission, 
  • Eliminating city  fees for non-profits for Landmark Designation,  
  • Possibly limiting consultant review of Landmark Designation applications to save the applicants money and streamline the process.

The initial draft budget also included increasing hours for the Santa Monica libraries, but not a full return to pre-pandemic hours. While the increased hours were universally heralded, Library Board Chair Judith Meister testified at the May hearing that Santa Monica is falling behind peer cities whose libraries are operating with normal, pre-pandemic, schedules.

“This is movement, but it is not enough,” she said of the increases to library service in the Main and Downtown branches. After recounting her experience talking to librarians in other cities where libraries are not closed or operating under reduced hours.  “We need to get our Ocean Park and Fairview libraries open again…I want you to remember the libraries took one of the biggest hits when the budget was cut by 50%. As our economy improves and we can restore funding, it really needs to go to our libraries.”

The Council asked city staff to look for ways to further increase the operating hours at the city’s libraries.

In its own recap of the meeting, the Santa Monica Daily Press offered a laundry list of other things the Council asked staff for, but at the May meeting Mayor Gleam Davis made it clear that she wouldn’t accept any changes to the budget that increased spending in one area that didn’t also increase revenue or cuts in another area to balance the out the new increase. The list of new costs that Council asked the staff to consider includes:

  • Increasing funding for the CREST enrichment program at local schools,
  • Increased security at the pier, transit stops and buses, beach and downtown,
  • Restoring the position of City Traffic Engineer, 
  • Increasing funding for the CREST enrichment program at local schools,
  • Increasing youth programming, 
  • And establishing a citywide American with Disabilities Act Manager.
Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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