New city budget projects $6.2M shortfall amid pandemic

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on Feb. 26. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Amid an ongoing pandemic that has kept many local businesses closed and residents at home, Santa Clarita’s proposed 2020-21 budget calls for a decrease by 2.8%, or $6.2 million, over the current budget. 

On Tuesday, a virtual public hearing will be held before the City Council to consider the overall budget, which is projected at $219.7 million. That figure includes a 3.3% decrease in the general fund — the city’s largest fund — at $110.2 million of total revenues and $32.1 million in sales tax, representing a 13.2% decrease from that of last year’s budget. 

Though less than the current budget, the 2020-21 proposal is higher than the 2018-19 fiscal year budget, which was $203 million — a budget that was about $5.2 million higher than that of the 2017-18 year. 

The 2020-21 shortfalls come in light of the “negative economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” reads the city agenda report. 

“The message this year is very different. The long-term impacts from this crisis have yet to be realized, but we do know there will be many challenges and tough decisions ahead,” said City Manager Ken Striplin in a draft version of the city budget. “How these impacts are handled at the various levels of government will have a real effect on local business and even city programs and services. While I have confidence in our ability to plan ahead to be well-positioned to respond, this community is currently in limbo and it is uncertain how and when we will be able to begin the recovery process.”

The city’s operating reserve, which serves as a funding source in case of an emergency, is proposed at 20% of operating expenditures, which total $109.9 million for the 2021-21 budget, for a total of $17.7 million. 

Santa Clarita’s top three funded sectors for the proposed budget include neighborhood services, such as parks and public libraries, with $74.8 million (34%); capital projects at $32.6 million (15%) and public safety, including police services and fire protection at $28.7 million (13%). 

The adoption of the budget is scheduled for the June 23 City Council meeting. 

The City Council meeting, held at City Hall, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday but is closed to the public because of the COVID-19 crisis. Those wishing to participate can call or provide comments at least 30 minutes before the start time by visiting santa-clarita.com/writtencomment. 

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