Faced with ballooning pension obligations and decreased funds resulting from the pandemic, the City of Santa Monica is considering a host of fee and tax increases so that it can continue to provide the levels of service that residents have grown to expect. A heated discussion of the proposed changes is expected at tonight’s City Council meeting. A full public hearing will be held June 27 will be held for public comment, ammendments, and adoption of the first year of the two year budget.
The overall proposed budget for the City of Santa Monica is $740.9 million in FY 2023-24 and $746.4 million in FY
2024-25. Despite the challenges facing the city, its five year forecast appears to be stable. The staff report shows revenue surplus of nearly $200,000 over the next three years before a shortfall of about $600,000 and a $1.5M shortfall the following years.You can download the proposed budget and supporting documents, here.
Some of the larger tax and fee increases are expected. In 2022, voters passed a series of measures to increase taxes and other fees for specific uses including Measure CS (which increases the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax (Hotel Tax) by one percentage point for hotel stays and by three percentage points for homeshare stays), Measure GS (which adds an additional 5% for property sales of $8 million) and Measure HMP, (which imposes an additional tax on cannabis retailers and other licensed cannabis businesses.)
Mindful that some of the proposed changes are going to be controversial, city staff points out other ways the city is attempting to increase revenue, including the newly approved kiosk program and the establishment of the We Are Santa Monica fund.
But the city plans to restore or increase services throughout the city including the creation of a new Rec. and Parks Department, restoring library hours to pre-pandemic levels, partial restoration of Police Athletic League programs and the launch of an official pickleball program.
The Santa Monica Conservancy (SMC), a non-profit that supports designating buildings as public landmarks, is asking members to write to the council or attend tonight’s meeting to urge the Council to reduce application fees and streamline the process for people and organizations to landmark parts of the city. SMC notes, “These cuts have reduced the number of Landmarks Commission meetings, limited Commission responsibilities, and raised the cost of designation applications so only the wealthiest property owners can afford to apply for landmark protections.”
The Santa Monica Conservancy, a non-profit organization that promotes the historic preservation of buildings in the city