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City projecting small surplus in early budget talks

Commissioners call for dog park lights, more park space

Posted: February 6, 2013 4:43 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2013 4:43 p.m.

Some money should go to the dogs, two Santa Clarita city commission members said during this week’s study session on the 2013-14 city budget.

The special joint meeting Tuesday night at City Hall involved the City Council and members of the city’s various commissions. Two members of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission said the city should examine putting up lights at the popular Santa Clarita dog park at Central Park.

Michael Cruz, a member of the commission, said he had received several requests from community members for lights in the area.

“I told them I would bring it up at a meeting like this, so I am keeping my promise,” Cruz said.

Commissioner Dianna Boone said she has heard similar requests.

It remains to be seen if the city will throw a few bones the dog park’s way, but the discussion will continue throughout the next several months as Santa Clarita officials work to finalize the city’s budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Tuesday’s meeting provided a brief and preliminary overview of what kind of fiscal shape the city is in.

As it stands, City Manager Ken Striplin said, the city could see a budget surplus in the neighborhood of $500,000 next year.

“We are very fortunate to have maintained a balanced and healthy budget,” Striplin said.

But he stressed it is still early on in the process and those numbers will likely change between now and when the city officially adopts its budget, most likely in June.

Despite a projected general fund surplus, city revenues will be 7.3 percent lower than they were before the recession hit in 2007, according to estimates.

The city also faces several challenges in the coming fiscal year, including continuing concern as the nation once again approaches the so-called “fiscal cliff”

It stands to collect more property and sales tax revenue due to recent annexations that added 25,000 residents, but it also has to provide services to those residents.

Duane Harte, a member of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission, said the city needs additional parks as its population grows.

The city plans to build its general fund operating reserve, which stands at 16 percent. The reserve is projected to reach 17 percent by the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, with the eventual goal of reaching 20 percent by the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Striplin said.

Building the reserve is important, he said, because it gives the city a financial safety net in case of a large expense, like rebuilding after a fire or earthquake.

“We’ve pulled slowly toward some new economic life, so to speak, and amidst all that we kept an extraordinarily high level of service for our citizens,” said City Councilwoman Laurene Weste. “I’m just very grateful because we have been very blessed.”

City officials will hold a series of public meetings on the budget between now and July 1, the start of the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The City Council is expected to approve the final budget on June 25.
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