New Santa Monica Budget Would Hike Utility Taxes

May 21, 1987|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

Santa Monicans would face higher utility and hotel taxes under a $123-million budget proposed by City Manager John Jalili.

The proposed tax increases, to be phased in over two years, would bring in an extra $2.5 million this fiscal year and an additional $1.9 million the following year. The budget will go before the council June 16.

If approved, each gas and electric bill would increase about 20 cents this year and another 20 cents next year. The city has not yet estimated the proposed increase in phone bills. The hotel tax, which is usually paid by visitors to the city, would increase from 8% to 10%.

Jalili said the taxes would replace declining federal aid, which has steadily dropped for several years. The new budget assumes that the city will lose $1.1 million in federal funds next year. The additional tax revenue would also go toward funding several new city programs.

"The city is in excellent financial condition," Jalili said. "The tax increase is to make sure the city remains in a good financial condition."

The increase would allow the city to avoid drawing on its financial reserves. Last year the city used $800,000 in reserve money to continue funding almost $4 million in social service programs. If the city continued to draw on its reserves it would "destroy its financial reputation," Jalili said.

$6.8-Million Reserve Fund

With the tax increase the new city budget, which is $300,000 more than last year's budget, will include a $6.8-million reserve fund.

New programs or purchases in the budget proposal include a $400,000 computer that should reduce police response time; another $400,000 for an automated book check-out system in the Main Library; the extension of the park ranger program, which last year on a trial basis provided additional security primarily in Palisades Park; an additional $2.5 million in city funds for the reconstruction of the Santa Monica Pier, and $230,000 for the purchase of television production equipment.

The city is planning to buy TV equipment so it could produce programs on cable channels 3, 10, or 30 in Santa Monica, said Assistant City Manager Lynne Barrette.

Some shows would instruct viewers on topics such as the disposal of toxic chemicals found in the home, Barrette said. Programs featuring cultural activities sponsored by the city and training films for new employees of city departments would also be produced, she said.

There are also plans to equip the council chambers so that City Council meetings could be shown live on the city's cable system, Barrette said. The council chambers would need additional lighting, electrical wiring and possibly wall-mounted cameras before the broadcasts could begin, she said.

Barrette added that she is not sure if there is enough money in the equipment budget to begin televising council meetings this year.

School Aid

Also included in the new budget is continued financial aid for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. The city would provide $100,000 in direct aid, the same as last year.

The council will vote on specific grants for social programs after holding a May 26 public hearing.

Last year, the issue of public support for two Santa Monica community organizations that once received tens of thousands of dollars in city grants fueled a heated council debate that continued into the early morning hours.

The Ocean Park Community Organization and Mid-City Neighbors have not received funds since the Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights faction lost its council majority in the November, 1984, election. Each group had received about $90,000 annually.

A 1986 effort by Councilmen Dennis Zane and James P. Conn, who is now mayor, to give $66,000 to each group for paid staff members was defeated by a 5-2 vote.

The renters' rights faction increased its numbers on the council when David Finkel defeated former Councilman David G. Epstein in the November, 1986, election.

Didn't Apply

But OPCO did not submit a grant application this year because it is likely that there is still a council majority against funding for the group, said co-chairwoman Julie Lopez-Dad.

Last year, independent Councilman Alan Katz voted with the three remaining council members of the All Santa Monica Coalition to deny funds for the two groups. But Katz had said he would be willing to reconsider his position this year.

Mid-City Neighbors applied for $86,000 this year, but city staff has recommended that the council reject its application.

"We are sort of lobbying with council members and other community leaders to see if some way can be found to find some formula to get city support for (Mid-City's) programs," said Paul Rosenstein, president of the group.

The city staff has recommended that the council continue financial support for a variety of social service programs that assist the homeless, elderly and poor. They've also recommended additional funds for legal aid for illegal aliens who are applying for amnesty under the new federal program.

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