The Santa Clarita City Council approved the largest budget in the city’s history Tuesday, in addition to agreeing to around $1 million for a trail in Sand Canyon and to send a letter urging the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to hold off on a recommendation about rotating deputies.
Tuesday’s budget approval was the culmination of a half-dozen public meetings on the plan, as well as countless hours from city staff in a number of departments, according to City Manager Ken Striplin.
City’s largest budget
Striplin said during a previous budget hearing the spending plan was the city’s first to cross the $300 million threshold, with the total coming to $322 million, a 7.5% increase over the previous fiscal year.
From the city’s general fund, Santa Clarita expects to spend $141 million and bring in $141.3 million in revenue. Sales tax revenue, which is the city’s leading funding source, is expected to increase by 5% over the previous year to $48 million.
One accomplishment Striplin also regularly mentions with budget updates is the city’s continued ability to maintain a health operating reserve, a sort of rainy day fund “that can be counted on in case of an emergency or an unforeseen opportunity.” For the 2023-24 fiscal year, Santa Clarita is expected to maintain $21.3 million in reserves.
That’s in addition to the city also planning for its largest capital improvement program budget to date, which “includes prioritized projects such as parks, buildings, paseos, trails and street enhancements that improve the quality of life for residents in our community,” according to a staff report presented during Tuesday’s budget hearing by Carmen Magana in the city manager’s office.
“Comprised of a variety of multiyear and multifunded capital projects, the CIP for Fiscal Year 2023-24 totals $90 million,” the report states.
Sand Canyon Trail
The city also approved a new contract Tuesday to fund the latest phase of construction for a trail in Sand Canyon.
Council members voted in favor of a contract not to exceed $977,777 for the Sand Canyon Trail – Pedestrian Bridges, Phase IV construction.
According to a city staff report: “The Sand Canyon Trail project will provide an approximately 2.8-mile multiuse trail along the west side of Sand Canyon Road from Placerita Canyon Road to Lost Canyon Road. The construction of this project has been separated into six phases. Phases I, II, III, and IV are substantially complete, and the remaining segments will be constructed once the necessary easements from property owners have been obtained.”
The report also notes that Phases V and VI have been completed.
“This component of Phase IV of the Sand Canyon Trail project will construct two prefabricated steel truss pedestrian bridges along Sand Canyon Road, within the segment of Sky Ranch Road to Iron Canyon Road,” according to notes from city staff on the plans.
The council also unanimously approved the sending of a letter urging Sheriff Robert Luna not to follow one of the suggestions from a recent lengthy report from the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission.
The commission, in an effort to create policy suggestions that would eliminate deputy gangs, reported Luna should mandate regular rotations, perhaps every five years, of patrol and custody deputies. The reasoning mentioned in the report is that entrenched deputies have, in the past, been able to create cliques that have operated at stations with more authority than the stations’ respective command staff.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station was not mentioned in any of the concerns in the commission’s report, but neighboring Antelope Valley was.
The commission issued a report in March, which was forwarded on to the Board of Supervisors, in an advisory capacity, and then to the sheriff in the same manner.
Luna’s office issued a statement June 16 in response to a request from The Signal, which indicated he was “in the process of reviewing the recommendation for rotations of deputies within patrol and custody.”
The statement from the Sheriff’s Information Bureau also indicated “the process needs to be thoroughly reviewed and discussed prior to implementation.”
The suggestion immediately garnered a backlash from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which said the policy would be very harmful to deputies’ efforts to build relationships in communities.
More than two dozen cities, including Santa Clarita, have now taken to publicly expressing opposition to the policy suggestion.