Taking a look at Malibu’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024-25

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Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

City Council holds a special meeting to address plan for the forthcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu City Council convened a special public workshop meeting on April 24 to consider the city’s proposed Fiscal Year 2024-2025 budget. The city’s new fiscal year commences on July 1.

“The city did pretty well post-recession and also did better than we thought we would post-pandemic,”Assistant City Manager Joseph Toney said. “That leaves the city in a very good financial position, which gives the council a lot of leeway to make strategic decisions going forward.” 

During an almost three-hour session, councilmembers reviewed a 187-page agenda report, replete with data focusing on several topics, such as the city’s efforts to improve employee recruitment and retention, to address the consternation that both city staff and residents experience during the city’s reviews and approvals of development plans and permits, and the Sheriff’s Department’s continuing struggles to hire deputies and support staff needed to open the built, but still vacant, sheriffs’ substation on the Santa Monica Community College campus. 

“We are doing the workshop today and we will take this budget to the Administration and Finance Subcommittee and then, hopefully, we will accomplish budget adoption by the council at the end of June.” Toney said.

To fully review the city’s proposed budget, readers can refer to malibu.org.

A broad overview 

The city maintains a balanced budget each fiscal year, and the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025 is structurally balanced, the staff report noted. Currently, the city employs 118.78 full-time equivalent employees and the proposed budget calls for adding 3.59 FTE. 

First, Toney provided an overview of the city’s overall total revenues, amounting to $84.36 million, consisting of special revenue funds such as Legacy Park and special revenue funds, which amount to 28.5 percent of the city’s total revenues. General Fund revenues amount to $60.28 million, which represents property taxes collected of $19.54 million — 32.4 percent of total revenues – as well as other taxes, including transient occupancy tax and sales taxes, license and permit fees, fines and forfeitures, service charges and other miscellaneous revenues. See Pie Chart 1.

“The City is projected to have $550,000 as surplus,” Toney said, noting that amount “could fluctuate as we go through the adoption process.” 

Then, Toney recounted the city’s expenditures, consisting of the various programs the city administers as well as the city’s operational expenses such as those incurred for personnel, including costs for salaries and increases thereon based on the cost of living, the costs of benefits, such as employee and retired employees’ insurance and pensions, and contractors. Improving workplace climate and culture remains a significant focus as the city continues to face challenges in recruiting and retaining employees, both Toney and the councilpersons noted.

Toney noted that the city’s total expenses are projected to be $59.45 million. “The City’s current biggest expenditures are for public safety, amounting to $16.4 million, and for management and administration, amounting to $15 million,” he said. See Pie Chart 2.

Councilpersons also listened to presentations concerning the city’s several departments, including Management and Administrative Services, the City Clerk, Public Safety, Community Services, Environmental Sustainability, Planning, and Public Works. 

This article provides a general overview of the highlights of those presentations concerning issues of highest interest to residents, such as the safety of Pacific Coast Highway, a significant need to improve development services relating to permits and planning, helping residents mitigate fire risks so as to address the wildfire insurance availability crisis, and the city’s employment challenges with regard to development services and other city functions.  

City’s efforts to further PCH safety 

Addressing PCH safety measures, Public Safety Director Susan Duenas stated her department is working to expedite installation of the KBUU antenna at Malibu Bluffs Park, which is in the permitting process. That antenna will help communication during disasters, Duenas noted, adding that the city is in the process of installing license plate readers to assist in addressing speeding on PCH.  Finally, she noted that her department’s outreach efforts assisting residents to harden their homes against wildfires may help residents acquire insurance.   

Bluebeam to the rescue

Importantly, a full land management system is also slated for implementation with regard to the city’s processing of development and permit applications over the next two years, Toney stated, noting that newly acquired software will assist and streamline workflow for permitting with regard to checking plans. He stated that the city is starting to utilize a permit and planning review file management system with Bluebeam integration, which conforms with current industry standards.

“With Bluebeam software, we can perform plan checks in a more streamlined development process and have easy communication with engineers and consultants,” said Environmental Sustainability Director Yolanda Bundy, adding that staff should be utilizing the software by early June. “Bluebeam will be a very successful tool and it includes every single department within development, including environment and sustainability, the building, public works and planning departments, and our geotechnical, coastal engineering and biological teams.”

Other emerging issues for the Planning Department include staff recruitment, according to Planning Department Director Richard Mollica, who noted that his department is striving to hire experienced planners and to use less contract planners, as well as to address planner caseload.

Unknown factors that could affect next fiscal year’s budget

The proposed budget includes some qualifiers. Most notably, the current high-interest rates could change over the next fiscal year, which could change investment returns or make borrowing for capital difficult. Further, the city’s one-half cent Transient Use Tax (TUT) could be eliminated if voters pass a ballot initiative entitled The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, which seeks to empower voters with the right to approve or reject all new state and local taxes.  

Next Steps

Future meetings regarding the forthcoming fiscal year’s budget will begin with the Administration and Finance Subcommittee addressing the proposed budget on May 2.

Staff also noted that area nonprofit organizations have submitted general fund applications. The city has received 24 applications and will be making decisions regarding what organizations will receive funding in late May. 

The A & F Subcommittee will make decisions concerning the pending general fund grant applications on May 20. On May 28, the City will hold a public hearing concerning the proposed budget. June 24 is the target date for the City Council to adopt the budget. 

An important disclaimer about this article 

Due to space constraints, this article does not fully describe all details and items considered by the council or encompassed in the proposed budget for next year.

The Malibu Times will provide further articles concerning funding for some other city expenditures and services. They include the city’s Public Works Department’s wastewater services, street services, and supervision of landslide management districts, and the Community Services Department’s various offerings —encompassing recreational, social and educational activities offered to residents of all ages at the city’s parks and the skatepark, as well as the Malibu Arts Commission’s activities and services provided to Malibu’s senior citizens and youngest citizens. 

For complete details regarding the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, readers should go to malibu.org and they can listen to the City Council’s special meeting on YouTube.