Facing a state-mandated deadline of June 30 to have a new budget in place, West Hollywood’s City Council approved the proposed $68 million annual budget for the fiscal years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 at its Monday night meeting.
That budget projects revenues of $13.5 million in transient occupancy taxes (20% of the budget), $12.9 million in property taxes (20%), $11.4 million in sales/user taxes (17%), $8.4 million in parking fines (12%), $4.3 million in parking meter revenue (6%) and $17.6 million from other sources (26%).
On the expenditure side, 38% goes to staff wages and fringes, 23% for sheriff/fire services, 6% to social services contracts and 5% to debt/bond repayment, among others.
The Council passed the budget as presented due to the state deadline, but will likely make adjustments during future meetings.
The budget faced severe criticism from speakers during public comment. Some were concerned about specific expenditures. Others were frustrated by the lack of details contained in the 272-page document.
The council shared the frustrations about the document’s presentation. Councilmember John Heilman said it was lacking in specifics and needed more details.
Councilmember John D’Amico said the budget read more like a year-end report that a company releases, not a detailed listing of how the city plans to spend its money. Mayor Jeff Prang said it was written like a story but without explanations for why the money was being spent.
D’Amico questioned why the various commissions hadn’t been given the opportunity to weigh in on the budget and why the public hadn’t been involved in the process.
Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land said that the council usually has a budget study session to ask specific questions and make specific changes in April before approving it in June. However that had not been done this year.
Councilmember John Duran said that the budget is not a Bible, but rather a guiding tool for how the city likely will spend its money. He pointed out that the Council makes revisions to the budget at virtually every meeting when it approves various expenditures.
The Council then started making requests for specific changes – $10,000 more here and $10,000 more there, put this money here instead of there, etc. D’Amico said he wanted to double the arts budget from $100,000 to $200,000.
As this was going on, Prang said the Council was essentially having the budget study session it should have had in April during that meeting. City Manager Paul Arevalo said he would bring those modifications back to the July 2 Council meeting for approval.
D’Amico questioned what the budget as a whole said about the city. He said the budget reflects the priorities of the city and the City Council but not of the residents and businesses. He also noted that the budget seemed to reflect policy shifts that had not had hearings in the public realm.
Prang responded that it was a good document and that it does reflect the values of the community. Prang also noted that he has never seen as much community involvement with the budget before.