Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center opened its new facility on Golden Valley Road in Canyon Country on April 29, 2019. Cory Rubin/The Signal

California Budget: Water tax avoided, COC and SCV senior center receive funding

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the state’s $215 billion budget Thursday, bringing in new funding for College of the Canyons and the SCV senior center, while also avoiding a water tax.

SCV senior center officials were enthusiastic about the new budget, as they received $450,000 to close a gap in the fundraising for their new building, Executive Director Kevin McDonald said.

“It’s for completing the costs of construction for the brand new senior center,” said McDonald. “We don’t have a specific chair or anything like that (that the money will go toward), but we definitely had a budget gap that we need to fill.”

McDonald said that the money had come after he and his team had reached out to Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, who made a request on behalf of the SCV senior center’s staff.

The senior center’s new $11 million, 35,000-square-foot facility opened on April 29, and now goes by the name Bella Vida.

College of the Canyons received $397,000 to refurbish Boykin Hall, a lecture/classroom hall located on the Valencia campus, according to officials.

“The spending plan addresses critical priorities for College of the Canyons,” said COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook. “We particularly appreciate the funding that will enable us to begin planning the much-needed renovation of Boykin Hall’s science labs and classrooms, as well as the significant one-time allocation aimed at defraying pension costs.”

Van Hook though did criticize the budget for not addressing the funding formula used by community colleges across the state to educate not only traditional students, but fire and law enforcement officers, as well.

“(The formula) promised new resources for colleges like ours that excel in improving student outcomes, but the formula failed to deliver,” said Van Hook. “Moreover, we are still fighting to have full funding restored for the critical training that community colleges provide to first responders statewide.”

SCV Water officials said Friday they, too, are pleased with the newest financial plan as it affects water.

“We were happy to see that the governor did not put forward tax on water,” said Steve Cole, assistant general manager for SCV Water. “It was a major consideration in this process, and we’re supportive of how they decided to do some of the funding work.”

Smith praised the budget for bringing in not only the funds for COC and the senior center, but also for including $130 million investment in clean drinking water projects, nearly $1 billion for emergency resources, and the increased funding to California State Universities and the University of California, she said in a statement Friday.

“With the governor’s signature, a fiscally solvent budget that not only pays down our debt but also stores funds into reserve goes into effect,” Smith said in the statement. “It has been a pleasure working with my colleagues to pass the 2019-20 California State Budget, and I look forward to our continued collaboration to fortify our state.”

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Antelope Valley, who had voted no on the budget earlier this year, expressed his disdain that a $215 billion budget did not fully fund the developmentally disabled, he said.

“This is a responsible budget that works to ensure public safety, improve homelessness, quality of life issues and our rainy day fund.” — Rick Velasquez, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s assistant chief deputy

“The developmentally disabled part of our community got left out,” said Lackey. “They had asked for an increase of 8%, which equates to about a billion dollars and this budget funded that request to the tune of about $300 million, which was way short … there were some good things that got funded but we’ve got to do better.”

State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, who represents portions of the west side of the SCV and southern parts of Santa Clarita, said that he was pleased with the tax breaks, funding for homeless, conservation and people with developmental disabilities programs, but also noted that he was happy that the governor showed “restraint and prudence” in putting money into the state’s rainy day fund.

“I feel good about the bones about the budget in general … and we’re paying down our debts,” said Stern. “It wasn’t all spending, there was some tax cuts as well for working families and small businesses, as well.”

Stern added that there are approximately 60,000 businesses in the whole state, with “a lot of them being in Santa Clarita,” that will benefit from certain tax cuts in the new budget.

Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean said there were a number of programs within the budget that she, the council and city staff were paying close attention to, which included: the $1 billion for emergency housing and shelters; $2 billion over the next year for Caltrans and the Interstate 5 rehabilitation project from the Senate Bill 1 account; $225 million toward forest health and wildfire prevention efforts; and $257.5 million directed toward equipment and technology for the state’s firefighters.

“We’re interested in these things because there’s money being allocated for what we need,” said McLean. “We’ll have to be very aggressive about applying for funds for our area.”

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, was unavailable to comment as of the publication of this article.

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