West Hollywood has seen city revenue grow steadily thanks to increases in property values, the construction of new housing, high hotel occupancy rates and more aggressive collection of billboard sign payments.
The city’s mid-year budget update, which will be presented to the City Council at its meeting Tuesday night, shows revenue was up $1.7 million in the first half of the fiscal year (July 1-Dec. 31, 2015), 6% over the same period a year earlier. Sales tax revenue of $3.8 million was down less than 1%. The city’s General Fund budget for the total fiscal year is $82.8 million.
The increase includes $275,000 in property tax revenues (up 6% over the same period last year), $450,000 in hotel room tax revenues (4%) and $400,000 in sign permit fees, all of which are projected to be ongoing increases. There also are one-time increases of $345,000 from a refund of property tax administration fees from L.A. County, $207,000 as reimbursement from a liability insurance contract and $28,000 in unspent social services contract funds returned to the general fund. The city attributes the slight decrease in sales tax revenue to corrections to amounts calculated in the past.
The City Council will be asked on Tuesday to approve several increases in ongoing expenditures and several one-time expenditures totaling $3.2 million. To balance the budget, $3.3 million will be moved from reserves set aside for capital projects and reserves for transit projects established with the passage of a countywide tax under Proposition A.
The largest of the proposed expenditures would be $2.4 million to buy the Coast Playhouse, a shuttered theatre at 8325 Santa Monica Blvd. near Flores. “The Coast Playhouse redevelopment and activation will anchor a potential Center City Arts District in the City…” says the staff report to the Council. If the theatre is purchased, the city will develop a plan for renovating and operating it. The next largest expenditure is the movement of $494,000 from the city’s General Fund to its Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The city committed $1 million to the affordable housing fund in the 2014-2015 budget and wants to move money from the General Fund to the affordable fund in order to keep a balance of $1 million there. Currently there is $506,000 in the fund from real estate developers who are required to pay an “in lieu” fee if they don’t construct required affordable housing in a project.
Other proposed additions to the city’s spending budget include:
— $80,000 to add four bicycle security ambassadors to the city’s Eastside patrol. They will focus on complaints related to security and problems with homeless people reported by residents. With the increase, the city will be spending $190,000 on the security ambassador program.
— $75,000 for consulting services to complete traffic studies and community outreach to identify ways to reduce the impact of traffic in certain neighborhoods.
— $60,000 in addition to the $500,000 already appropriated for the city’s public bike share program.
— $50,000 as an addition to the WeHoX Innovation Fund. That fund is intended to provide small grants to support innovative ideas for pilot projects.
$35,000 to provide a review by a traffic engineer of proposed development projects. The review would include a look at vehicle access and circulation on-site parking and other traffic issues.
— $30,000 to fund incentives for city employees to reduce traffic by using bicycles, public transit and carpooling to work.
— $28,000 to AID for AIDS, which will increase the city’s funding to $126,000 to provide housing case management services and access to to crisis shelters for low-income people with HIV and other chronic illnesses.
— $25,000 to continue work on the city’s Aging in Place, Aging in Community five-year plan. The money will be used to develop a model for measuring and refining the impact of specific programs included in the aging in place effort.
The proposal also recommends adding two city staff positions. One would provide project management and supervision in the city’s Long Range and Mobility Planning Division. The estimated compensation, including benefits, is $179,000. The other would add a construction manager to the Facilities and Field Services Division to oversee major city projects such as the second phase of the West Hollywood Park project. The estimated total compensation for that position is $163,000.
The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica.