Council to approve lean, mean city budget of 2017-18

City of Santa Clarita City Hall

Santa Clarita’s much-anticipated 2017-18 budget will go before the city council on Tuesday.

Recent council agendas have been slim for the past few weeks to allow the city staff time to prepare the budget for next year, according to Mayor Cameron Smyth.

In total, the budget for the following fiscal year totals $197.7 million. This is a 10.1 percent, or $22.3 million, decrease from last the last fiscal year.

“It’s just important that we’re continuing a fiscally well-managed budget,” Smyth said to The Signal Thursday. “We take that very seriously. I think this budget continues to represent the city’s commitments and priorities.”

The city’s budget includes funds for the Capital Improvement Program, the Redevelopment Successor Agency, operations and maintenance, personnel and debt services.

Most of the budget’s shrinkage from last fiscal year is due to a decrease in the Capital Improvement Program spending from the current fiscal year to the new year. One-time funds for projects last year, including the Old Town Newhall Parking Structure and the Saugus Library and Community Center, necessitated a larger budget in 2016-17.

The General Fund is the city’s largest, totaling $103.6 million, and General Fund appropriations total $103.3 million.

The Capital Improvement Program comprises $33.7 million of the upcoming budget, which is a 34.1 percent decrease from the year before. It is normal for there to be budget fluctuations from year to year, the mayor said, particularly after capital projects have been paid for.

“That accounts for the main reason the budget is down,” Smyth said. “It is in no way an economic slowdown.”

Budget planning is essentially a year-round task for city staff, but the city really starts to focus on the budget in February when the council has their first briefing, Smyth said.

There are several public hearings and opportunities for the council, commissions and community members to give input before the council votes in June, he said.

“This is a very well thought out and vetted budget,” Smyth said. “We’re right in meeting all obligations to employees, law enforcement, parks and recreation and all things that are important to the community.”

City staff will sometimes look to other cities’ budgets as far as “best practices” go, the mayor said, but spending by dollar amounts are specific to Santa Clarita.

Also on the agenda. the most updated proposal of the mobile home park municipal code is expected to go before the council on Tuesday as well.

Development committee members Bob Kellar and Bill Miranda met with city staff and mobile home park residents and owners on Monday to discuss changes they wanted to make to the code.

“I was very impressed with our gathering,” Kellar told The Signal Thursday.

According to Kellar, he has had numerous discussions with City Manager Ken Striplin and city staff to make the code more effective and responsible.

He said he appreciated the mobile home park residents’ and owners’ insight and suggestions at the Monday meeting.

Though Kellar said he honestly does not believe there will ever be a way to make both sides completely happy, he said the city staff has made strides to ensure there is a fair compromise for owners and residents.

“I think we’re getting very close to getting a program in place that will be fair to both sides of the equation,” Kellar said.

Also set for Tuesday, the city council will choose a representative for the Santa Clarita Valley Groundwater Agency Board.

The agency’s role is to monitor groundwater in the Santa Clarita Valley and the city has agreed to do their part by having a representative sit on the board.

Council members were supposed to choose among themselves to fill the seat at the May 10 council meeting, but Councilman Bob Kellar suggested waiting until the first meeting in June to select.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean was the only member of the council who volunteered to serve on the board at the May meeting.

“I don’t know if I’m still the only one interested, but we’ll have to wait and see during the discussion on Tuesday,” McLean said. “If someone wants it badly, I won’t present a problem.”

The councilwoman said she expressed interest because she has experience serving on the elected officials task force for storm water, as well as other groundwater and reclamation committees.

“It’s just that I have experience dealing with these issues,” she said.


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