City of Santa Clarita reviews goals for upcoming year’s budget

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita held a budget study session on Wednesday, stating that among other priorities, their top four goals for the city’s use of the general fund over the coming year would be: COVID-19 recovery, city infrastructure, public safety and state legislation. 

While the city said it has recovered significantly since the downturn it took during the pandemic, global and national trends show economic growth at a lower rate than previously projected due to the ongoing COVID-19 concerns, as well as inflation and supply issues.  

Currently, the unemployment rate in the city of Santa Clarita rests at 5.2%, a recovery from the peak rate of 18% in 2020 but still higher than the 2019 level of 4.4%.  

City Manager Ken Striplin said that development, film and tourism had buoyed the Santa Clarita local economy over the pandemic, and continuing with the COVID-19 recovery would be a major priority in allocating the projected $130.7 million the city expects in revenue for the coming year.   

A key focal point of the meeting turned to public safety, which for the past year the Santa Clarita City Council, as well as Striplin, have said has been jeopardized by L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón and his recent policy directives that limited sentencing and bail enhancements for a number of crimes and misdemeanors.  

The largest expenditure from the general fund in the coming year, public safety, is expected to see a $31.5 million injection from the city.  

Striplin said that even if the city wanted to add more to the local law enforcement contract to increase patrols and deputies, they could not, because of the way in which the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is dealing with its own lack of budgeting and personnel issues.  

The next two largest expenditures from the general fund are set to be public works at 14% of the total $130.7 million and recreation and community services at 13% of the general fund.   

Additionally, the city will need to continue to look at how it will accommodate for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s objective of building 3.5 million new homes in the state of California by 2025, factoring that into the city’s own 2025 strategic plan.  

“The topic of affordable housing has been a driving force for statewide policies that override local zoning laws in an attempt to reach the governor’s target of 3.5 million new homes by 2025,” said Striplin. “For the last three years affordable housing bills that continue overriding this local control has dominated the Legislature. I foresee this being another trend for 2022 and will continue to have negative impacts on density and ultimately” quality of life here in Santa Clarita.  

The city, Striplin said, will continue to practice its key budget philosophies, which include believing “the decisions made in good times are more important than the decisions made during bad times,” to “always live below your means” and being conservative, yet proactive, in spending.  

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