Santa Monica unveils proposed plan for COVID-19 recovery

A quickly assembled task force of Santa Monica business, community, and political leaders has outlined a proposal for emerging from the coronavirus shutdown, including a restructuring of some city operations, officials said Saturday.  

The plan, which will be considered by the City Council at a special meeting on Tuesday, includes reduced hours for events, in-person programming, and facility access, but reductions to public safety "are comparatively limited," officials said.  

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"As City staff, we are public servants, charged with responding to community needs and safeguarding the public good. In the wake of the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, that means making difficult budgetary decisions that prioritize public safety, protect our most vulnerable populations, and maintain our vibrant public spaces, while setting our sights on supporting our economic recovery," Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said.  

"The path ahead will be painful, and fraught with shared sacrifices to stop cuts in services and prevent further layoffs. We grieve with our colleagues who have dedicated themselves to this work whose jobs will be lost. In the coming days and weeks, I look forward to hearing from our broad City community to ensure that we implement a plan that leads with our values."  

Dilg was appointed in mid-April to replace former City Manager RickCole, who resigned several days after offering to reduce his annual $343,000 salary by 20%.  

Among the proposed changes: -- Community and Cultural Services becomes Community Services; Planning and Community Development becomes Community Development; and the  Housing Division and Economic Development Division of the prior Housing and Economic Development Department are integrated into these two new departments;  -- City initiatives on performance management, wellbeing, and sustainability programming will have their staffing eliminated or reduced.  -- Libraries will have their in-person hours reduced, but efforts to continue to digitize city operations for expedited online service delivery will continue.  

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On the financial front, officials said Dilg and Santa Monica's interim city attorney have taken 20% reductions in pay. Department heads and other executive staff will take cuts up to 15%.  

The city is also leveraging reserves, cutting capital projects, and recalling water settlement funds, and Measure GSH funds for a one-time saving of$117 million.  

"Like most cities in the nation, Santa Monica is in uncharted territory. The impact of this pandemic on our economy is unlike any other natural or man-made disaster," Finance Director Gigi Decavalles-Hughes said."This situation is unique because the deficit is immediate and deep as well as long-term, with only modest projected gains after 2022. We focused on closing the deficit first with one-time funds. While these one-time funds help bridge the gap, a reorganization that includes long-term measures is required for the organization's financial sustainability."  

City staff members are also recommending the creation of a $20 million Shutdown Fund to shoulder a two-month loss in revenue if COVID-19 resurges in the fall or winter, requiring a second wave of stay at home orders and associated impacts.  

The council meeting will be held via teleconference Tuesday at 3 p.m.Information is available at New interim public comment rules will be implemented, in which residents can provide written or oral public comment in advance of or during the meeting.

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