SANTA MONICA — The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday restored nearly $400,000 in budget cuts to social services and the school district before approving a $185.7-million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, a $23.8-million cut from the current fiscal year.
"You have the quality of community that you're willing to pay for," Councilman Dennis Zane said in arguing to restore the funds for an array of programs that are emblematic of the city's progressive political philosophy.
The council also restored $6,760 to radio station KCRW to ensure continued broadcast of council meetings.
The vote on restoring the cuts proposed by the city manager was 5 to 2, with the majority espousing the view that tough economic times are the worst time to cut back services to the young and the needy.
Councilmen Robert Holbrook and Herb Katz voted against restoring the funding, saying the cuts were prudent in light of the recession. They also voted against the budget as a whole for the same reason.
Beset by revenue shortfalls precipitated by the recession, the city began paring its spending last December. Since then, the city has raised its reserve fund from $5.5 million to $8 million with mid-fiscal-year budget cuts.
The reserves are needed in part because the Legislature is poised to cut from $1.6 million to $4 million from its allotment to Santa Monica because of the state's budget woes. Also, the economic forecast remains gloomy.
City Manager John Jalili said significant spending cuts have been achieved through the elimination of 60 staff positions, cutbacks in hiring of outside consultants, reductions in capital improvement projects, and decreased equipment and supply costs.
City departments were asked to trim first 5%, then 10% from their individual budgets. The final budget represents about an overall cut of more than 11% from this fiscal year, without cutting essential services, Jalili said.
The city's funding for several nonprofit entities also took large cuts. They are the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Project, the Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Neighborhood Support Center and the Bayside District, which runs the Third Street Promenade.
"Our city had never gone through this drastic a budget cut," Jalili said. "For a city that had been on a growth mode for a long time, it was a very difficult reduction."
The council chamber was packed Tuesday with advocates of various programs, as well as some who pleaded for even less spending.
Jean Sedillos of Concerned Homeowners of Santa Monica was one of the latter. "In these lean times, Santa Monica City Hall will have to cut back slightly in its quest to save the entire world while we get our own house in order," Sedillos said.
But resident Irene Zivi said that proposed cuts in social programs threaten some of the city's most needy and vulnerable residents.
"I wish people could think about these services the same way as police and fire," Zivi said. "This is my plea."