Sweeping cuts in Santa Monica city budget foreshadow wider troubles for other SoCal cities

The city of Santa Monica is laying off scores of workers as the pandemic strangles its revenue flow and its mayor warns that other municipalities face a similar crisis.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- The city of Santa Monica is laying off scores of workers as the pandemic strangles its revenue flow and the mayor warns that other municipalities face a similar crisis.

"Every city is going to confront this very painful reality. The revenues are going to come down and come down so quickly," says Mayor Kevin McKeown.

At a marathon 7 1/2 hour city council meeting, cuts were outlined in every department as residents made a plea for compassion.

Bus service will be scaled back, street cleaning will transition from weekly to monthly. The police budget highlighted a cut of $3.5 million. Two libraries will be shuttered. There will be less access to public computers and children's programs hit the chopping block.

"I told my son there's a possibility that they could cut everything. And he cried," says Ericka Lesley, who chairs a parents group for African American children.

A total of 331 jobs are targeted.

A buyout was accepted by 127 workers, leaving 156 holding pink slips, including youth coach Alex Morales.

"It was heartbreaking. And as a parent, it was heartbreaking knowing that they were taking sports away from the kids," says Morales.

A $224 million deficit is projected over the next two years.

"Hospitality and hotels have been 20% of our revenue. Retail is another 20%. So you look at those two things collapsing, and you have some idea of what the impact is," says Mayor McKeown.

Almost half of the hotels are closed. For the rest he says, occupancy is in the single digits.

"We're just the first city out of the gate dealing with this in a public way. I'm sure in city council closed sessions around the county, other city councils are wrestling with the same issues."

Talks with bargaining units are underway trying to soften the blow. Some funds for seniors, youth and Legal Aid services have been restored.

The cuts are scheduled for June 30.
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