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City budget projected to be slightly smaller than last year

Posted: May 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Even as state and national economic conditions continue to improve, Santa Clarita’s proposed budget for next year will actually shrink a bit, City Manager Ken Striplin said at a recent budget study session.

However, that shrinking will not include any cuts to city programs or services, he said.

Speaking during a budget study session last week at Santa Clarita City Hall, Striplin said it is important to remain cautious and conservative with the budget, despite signs of economic improvement.

Fiscal caution is in line with the city’s philosophy, he said: “The decisions made in good times are more important than the decisions made during bad times.”

The proposed budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year — if approved during a series of reviews — is $180.7 million, almost $3 million less than the budget for the current fiscal year.

But despite the overall budget decrease, Striplin emphasized that no existing programs or services would be cut in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“Everything is holding,” he said.

City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said the plan to spend less next year than this year is realistic because of some one-time expenditures during the current year that were not rolled into the spending plan for the coming year.

Still, the proposed budget calls for spending on projects around the city. Some of those include $192,510 that will be used to expand programming for young adults at city libraries, $120,000 to fund lobbying efforts against the proposed Cemex mine in Soledad Canyon, and $51,518 that will go toward providing new crossing guards at local schools.

Under the proposal, the city is expected to spend a little more than $40 million on capital improvements, a 14 percent decrease from last year's budget.

But, Striplin said, it is possible new projects will come up during the course of the year.

Some of the major projects on tap during the next fiscal year are $3 million for new multi-sport fields and parking areas at Santa Clarita’s Central Park in Saugus, $1 million for bus stop improvements around the city and $2.8 million to refurbish medians on Soledad Canyon Road.

Striplin said the proposed budget would raise the city’s reserve fund to the City Council’s expressed goal of 17 percent.

“It’s really, really critical that we have that rainy-day fund in case there’s an earthquake, a disaster, a fire or a flood,” said Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste.

Weste also called the budget proposal “really exciting.”

“With tough times and a limited budget, we’re making things come together,” she said.

While almost half of the city’s proposed budget — around $85 million — is made up of revenues that go into the city’s general fund and can be used for any purpose, much of the city’s budget is made up of money earmarked for a specific purpose, according to City Councilwoman Marsha McLean.

“We don’t have a lot of leeway with those items,” McLean said.

As a result, the city is somewhat restricted in regards to how it spends its money, she said.

While general fund revenues come primarily from taxes, other sources of city revenue include grants that are restricted in how they can be spent, Striplin said.

The proposed budget will go to the city’s budget subcommittee for review on May 17. After that, the Santa Clarita Planning Commission will review it on June 4.

The city will hold a public hearing to gather input on the budget June 11. Final approval and adoption of the budget is expected by June 25, according to Striplin.

The 2013-2014 fiscal year starts July 1.


On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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