Santa Clarita City Council due to vote on budget this month
The Santa Clarita City Council is expected to adopt the 2016-17 fiscal year budget of $219.6 million during its June 28 meeting, a 17.3 percent increase from the last year.
The proposed budget, which City Manager Ken Striplin called “balanced and on schedule,” needs to be adopted before the fiscal year begins on July 1. Mayor Bob Kellar said the city has never adopted a budget late.
“One thing we’ve always been careful about ... is that we live within our means,” Kellar said.
He added that Santa Clarita continues to hold a AAA rating from Standard and Poor — the highest rating a municipality can receive — which shows the city has “an extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments.”
Sarona Vivanco, a senior management analyst for Santa Clarita, said the rating reflects the city’s responsible fiscal management over the years.
The proposed budget overall is broken down into six themes matching its compilation of goals, priorities and needs expressed by the community as stated in its Santa Clarita 2020 plan.
Those themes are public safety, building and creating community, enhancing economic vitality, community beautification, sustaining public infrastructure and proactive, transparent and responsive government services.
The city reached a budget milestone this year as the general fund revenue exceeded $100 million for the first time, totaling $103.1 million, Striplin said. The general fund is the largest portion of the budget, paying for the city’s administrative and operating expenses.
Some other sections of the budget include special revenue funds, debt service and capital projects funds. Special revenue funds are legally restricted to specific purposes; debt service funds long-term principal and interest of debt; and the capital project fund pays for new and upgraded facilities.
Sales tax provides $37 million of the general fund, a projected increase of 4.2 percent due to additional property that has been annexed into the city and tax on purchases made within the city.
Other major sources come from property tax on real property (16 percent) and property tax in lieu of vehicle license fees (17 percent).
When the state reduced vehicle license fees in 1998, it “backfilled” the lost revenue to cities and counties with property tax revenues that would have otherwise gone elsewhere.
Twenty percent of the general fund, or $17.4 million, is in operating reserves in case of a “rainy day.” These funds allow the city to move quickly in emergencies such as catastrophic fires or earthquakes, rather than awaiting funds from more slow-moving government agencies.
More services Services and programs for residents have been increased by the city, which pays those expenses out of its general fund, Vivanco said.
Santa Clarita’s Primetime Preschool program, for example, was so popular it had a waiting list of more than 200 people, she said. The program offers curriculum for preschoolers ages 3-5 that focuses on the positive growth of each child.
The city added four classes last year to meet increased interest and now plans to provide an extra $80,049 to pay for the extra supplies and staffing.
Growing participation has occurred for many other programs as well, including the city’s day camp and the Canyon Country Community Center. Additional funds have been allocated to such programs in this year’s budget.
New positions are being created and budgeted for in the 2016-17 fiscal year, too.
A code enforcement officer, for example, will be hired to help watch over parks and open space and respond to calls of people breaking rules there. A special district manager will provide coordination for all the special districts including landscape maintenance, urban forestry, streetlight maintenance and drainage benefit assessment areas. A total of $20 million is budgeted for the special districts, Vivanco said.
Some other highlights in the budget include approximately $7.7 million to replace 15 city buses as well as $96,000 for new laptops and kiosks in the libraries. Also in the budget is $135,000 to advocate against Cemex, a large mining operation that is temporarily stalled.
“The items now definitely serve the community well for the short-term and the long-term,” Vivanco said.
One of the major priorities for the city is capital improvements, which is budgeted for $51.2 million. Capital improvements tend to include design and construction of facilities, major renovations, or ongoing maintenance.
Some of the larger projects budgeted under capital improvements include $15.2 million for the downtown Newhall parking structure, $9 million for various road rehabilitation, $3.2 million for the Vista Canyon Regional Transit Center, $3 million for the Via Princessa roadway extension design and $2.5 million for the Saugus Library design.
“It’s actually an exciting budget because so much is in it,” Vivanco said.