Culver City budget sees significant changes in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a continuation of ‘Commercial rent moratorium among topics discussed at budget meeting’ printed on May 21.

The discussions then shifted to the main topic for the rest of the Monday and all of the Tuesday meeting: the 2020/2021 budget. As expected, there were significant cuts across the board for the city in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to compensate for significant losses, including a projected $9,000,000 decrease in available sales tax revenue provided in 2020, as well as a $7,100,000 drop in business license revenue. This is a 33% drop for sales tax and a 51% drop in business license money.

The general fund will see a cut of around $25,000,000 as a result of these financial issues, and the city will cut just under $100,000,000 overall. A large chunk of this money comes from the Capital Improvements Funds, which saw its appropriation cut from 42,936,335 in 2019/2020 to just $5,263,459 for 2020/2021.

These cuts also resulted in a slight rebalancing of the general funds allocations. 38% of the budget goes towards police related expenses, while 21% goes to fire, 16% to general government, 10% to public works, 8% to parks and recreations, and 7% to community development. While this rebalancing may seem to favor some departments, “everyone took their fair share of decreases,” according to Onyx Jones, Culver City’s CFO.

Some of the larger cuts include a cut of about $10,800,00 to new capital improvement projects and a $16,900,000 decrease in sewer fund expenditures.

Despite having their portion of the general fund increased, Culver City Police Department will reduce their operations and maintanence budget reduced by 12%, with no enhancement requests. Parks, Recreation, & Community Services total budget saw a 13.5%  cut, which will see reductions to services such as landscaping, inflatables and snow for special events, mental health workers, and security guard services. The department also proposed a $30,000 increase to the general fund for PRCS, which they say would result in $66,000 in offsets to provide cost savings to the city.

A point of some discussion has been the fiber network and the fund that goes with it. Constructed in July 2018 with the intent of improving internet and high speed data connectivity for city businesses, municipal networks, and Culver City Unified School District, the network consists of a 576 strand backbone that is 21.7 miles long, all located underground.

This has come under some scrutiny due to items related to a lack of funds in 2019/2020 presented in this year’s budget. The city manager’s office will be requesting a write off a annual construction loan payment of $709,669.21 and a defferal  of a annual working captial loan payment at $292,660.01.

The transportation and CityBus budget also saw some major changes due to a decrease in ridership, mainly saving by reducing maintanence and lowering fuel, as well as an eight operator head count. The department will be asking for several enhancements for refurbishing bus stops and to add battery powered buses to the fleet. Federal funds will be involved in these enhancements.

The fire department hopes to add a third ambulance to its fleet, and continues to work with other departments to replace radios at the end of their service life.

For more information, view the full 2020/2021 proposed budget at culvercity.org (City Hall > Government Transparency > Annual City Budgets > 2020/2021 Budget Documents).