The Culver City Council took time on Monday evening to receive a report on the annual budget process and to discuss and adopt goals for the next five fiscal years between 2024-2029.
City Chief Financial Officer Lisa Soghor was on hand to present, explaining that the budget process for the subsequent fiscal year begins halfway through the current one, in January of next year. In February, she will present a mid-year budget status report to the city council that discusses the outcomes for the July – December 2023 half of the ’23-’24 budget year, with March kicking off city department budget setting, work plan presentations, and input from boards and commissions. In April, the city manager conducts a budget review before a proposed budget draft is presented to the council in May. At this time city departments also make their budget presentations. In June, the city council holds a public hearing on and adopts the budget for fiscal ’24-’25.
Soghor noted that the city has received a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for more than 30 years, but to continue to qualify for award recognition, the city must provide in the budget document “A coherent statement of organization-wide, strategic goals, and strategies that address long-term concerns and issues.”
The city’s previous five-year set of goals was adopted in 2018 for 2019-2023 and would need to be renewed this year to meet the GFOA’s requirements. The finance department staff drafted the following strategic goals for the city council to consider for the 2024-2029 budget period:
- Ensure Long-term Financial Stability
- Enhance Mobility and Transportation
- Improve Housing and Homelessness Services
- Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Improve and Maintain Public Infrastructure and Community Spaces
- Advance Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action
- Promote Public Safety
- Provide High-Quality Public Services
- Increase Community Engagement
Resident Karim Sahli was on hand to comment that there should be a stated goal specific to climate change mitigation given the acceleration of the climate crisis. He even pointed to the fact, for example, that new breeds of mosquito have begun to populate the area, increasing the danger of disease spread. He also stressed that the city needs real, measurable goals toward progress, and “Not mere symbolic action.”
Councilmember Dan O’Brien suggested that the council members conduct a one-day retreat to dig a bit deeper into the strategic goals, with Councilmember Freddy Puza going further – suggesting something like a town hall meeting for staff to engage the public in the budget process.
Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin suggested the city needs to do more than merely “promote” diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Saying that “wording is important,” she thinks something stronger like integrating DEI into the fabric of the city’s work would better reflect the city’s commitment to these efforts.
She also wanted to build on the goal pertaining to improving housing and homeless services to actually include more housing. “Separate and apart from homelessness, we should support housing because our jobs and homes imbalance is incredibly biased here,” she said. “We have 60-plus jobs to every one housing unit in Culver City.”
Soghor explained that as departments present their budgets as related to the overarching goals, their bullet points will become more granular to hit on more specifics next spring.
With that, the council voted unanimously, 5-0, to adopt the budget process and stated goals for 2024-2029.
O’Brien then moved to schedule a full day to work through the goal-setting and budget priorities ahead. That also passed with all 5 members of the council voting in support.
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