Land Acquisitions Slash City’s Savings Account

General fund reserves will shrink this year, but remain above the minimum threshold of 50 percent.

Malibu city staff was once again able to create a balanced city budget this year—despite expenditures far outpacing revenues.

The final version of the 2018-19 city budget was approved in a unanimous, 5-0, council vote on Monday evening, with all council members praising staff for a job well done.

Because city council voted earlier this year to move forward with three major land acquisitions—to the tune of $42.2 million—the budget appears a little more lopsided than usual. About $12 million of the $42.2 million cost will come out of the city’s general fund undesignated reserves and another one million from the Bluffs Park designated reserve.

Revenues in the 2018-19 budget are expected to come in at $77.5 million and expenditures at $91.1 million. These numbers are inflated due to the Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility, which has just about finished its first year and takes up about $6 million of the city’s budget.

The purchase of three parcels from Malibu Bay Co. will cause the general fund reserve to fall from 106 percent of the city’s annual operating budget to 66 percent—a factor that does not worry city staff or council. Mayor Rick Mullen took time out from the meeting Monday to thank City Manager Reva Feldman who, although she was not tasked with preparing the city’s budget this year, has long been the main financial manager for Malibu.

“Thank you, [Assistant City Manager] Lisa [Soghor] for this presentation, and thank you Reva for keeping a tight ship,” Mullen said after council viewed the budget presentation Monday. “We wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this historic opportunity for the property acquisition we’re finalizing if we didn’t keep such a tight ship.”

The city also allocated $89,500 toward local nonprofits as part of the annual general fund grant program, while moving a $100,000 grant toward the Malibu Boys and Girls Club to a budget line item. Previously, large grants to the club were counted as part of the program.

Of the remaining recipients, Malibu Community Labor Exchange received the largest grant, of $25,000, followed by Children’s Lifesaving Foundation at $6,000, California Wildlife Center at $5,700, and the Shark Fund and Malibu Search and Rescue, which were awarded $5,000 each.

That leaves $10,500 in the city’s general fund grant program “to be disbursed at a later time.”

Though some have expressed skepticism over the comparatively small amount of money allocated by the city to help fund local nonprofits, Malibu Task Force on Homelessness volunteer Burt Ross came to the meeting to praise the city for its generosity in helping fund homeless relief efforts.

“I am here tonight to congratulate all of you for your strong support for our homeless people, as manifested by the inclusion of $200,000 in the city’s proposed Public Safety Budget,” Ross told council. “This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time in our city’s history that money has been allocated as a line item in our budget to deal exclusively with our homeless population.”