City Council Reviews Upcoming Fiscal Year Budgets

The Beverly Hills City Council conducted a special budget study session on June 12 to discuss the city’s proposed capital improvement and operating budgets for fiscal year 2023-2024.

“The city of Beverly Hills is strongly committed to investing in capital and infrastructure needs,” Jeff Muir, director of finance for the city of Beverly Hills, said at the meeting. “This ongoing commitment differentiates the city from many of the cities that surround it.”

For fiscal year 2023-2024, the proposed capital improvement budget is $92.4 million, with funds dedicated to infrastructure, capital assets, parking, other internal services and enterprise projects. The sum is approximately $17 million higher than the approved budget for 2023-2024 in the 2022-2023 approved CIP plan.

The largest amount of capital improvement proposal funding for the coming fiscal year is for infrastructure, with $26.5 million appropriated to it.

The total capital improvement budget over the next five years, though fiscal year 2027-2028, is $426.3 million.

Shana Epstein, the city’s director of public works, spoke of the city’s 2022-23 accomplishments. She highlighted the water well project on La Cienega Boulevard, renovations to the City Hall tower—”We used 290 yards of concrete to stabilize the tower,” she said—and the ongoing reconstruction of Coldwater Canyon Drive.

She also highlighted 24,000 plants being planted on Burton Way. More than half have already been planted.

“This is a very exciting project where we’ll capture millions of gallons of stormwater, and we’ll be able to reuse it onsite for showing and demonstrating a green street for the community,” Epstein said.

For fiscal year 2023-2024, more than $3 million in the budget will be allocated toward the vehicle replacement program, Epstein said. There will be a replacement of 20 vehicles for the police department, eight for public works, five for the fire department, and one new vehicle for the police department. A total of 34 vehicles are in the budget.

“Each vehicle has its own prescribed life, and in many times once it gets to its prescribed life, we evaluate it if it can last a little longer—and we do that on a regular basis with each vehicle,” Epstein said. “Once the vehicle has been replaced, it goes out to public auction.”

When Mayor Dr. Julian Gold asked about “electrification of the fleet,” Epstein said the city has looked at alternative-fuel vehicles that are out there. This is something the city does whenever it acquires replacement vehicles. The public works director also spoke of the department’s intention to install “double the number of EV chargers in our parking structures.”

She also spoke of the proposed funding for streets, sidewalks and parking.

Gold inquired about the health of the parking fund. “In this budget have we put away enough money that we’ll be able to maintain the parking structured as we ought and not have to come back for another general fund infusion?”

Epstein said the projection for the parking fund moved from approximately $6 million to $3 million.

“We did want to make an emphasis to show that we give about $2.7 million in free transactions in free parking as part of what we’ve defined as a community value,” Epstein, the public works director, told Gold.

Stephanie Harris, director of community services, spoke about proposed funding increases—to the amount of $500,000—for park facilities renovation at Roxbury Park, covering improvements to the volleyball courts, the outdoor basketball courts and the trip-and-fall hazards around the park.

Highlighting proposed funding for technology and public safety, Chief Information Officer David Schirmer spoke of the city moving to a new encryption technology requiring an upgrade to the mobile radios in police vehicles. The proposed funding increase is $1.5 million. The proposed budget in the upcoming fiscal year for the IT equipment replacement program is $1.7 million, Schirmer said.

The cost of project management spread across all the CIPs, or “the cost of the people that plan and implement all the capital improvement projects throughout the city,” Schirmer said, is nearly $5.3 million.

Muir also presented an overview of the city’s operating budget for fiscal year 2023-2024, saying the city projects an estimated net revenue of $456.3 million. The largest portion is charges of current services, including utilities, development-related fees and community service activity charges.

The most significant appropriation in the operating budget is for city employees’ salaries and benefits, at $203.7 million, representing 44% of the city’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Capital improvements, meanwhile, with an appropriation of $87.1 million, account for 19% of the upcoming operating budget.

Providing remarks about the macroeconomic climate, Muir said the city must remain fiscally vigilant because of inflation and fears that rising interest rates could trigger a recessionary period.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilmember Lili Bosse thanked the city’s staff for making the budget more concise and understandable than in years past.

“I feel very confident any resident, any person, can read one of these books and very concisely understand what we’re talking about,” Bosse said Gold, for his part, agreed.

“This is really a presentable budget that we all easily understand,” he said. “So, that’s great.”

Councilmember John Mirisch praised the city’s efforts toward being fiscally conservative while saying he’d like to see more resources dedicated to creating affordable housing.

“We’re the envy, in terms of the kind of revenue we have, of many other cities,” he said. “But is it burning a hole in our pocket?”