Planning meeting offers look into city spending plan 

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on Feb. 26. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita Planning Commission agenda for Tuesday’s meeting offered a preview of the city’s 2023-24 fiscal year budget.  

The total spending plan is a little over $320 million, including its capital improvement program, personnel services, as well operations and maintenance, among other areas.  

“The city has once again prepared a draft budget that is balanced and on-time,” according to an email from Tyler Pledger, a senior management analyst with the city of Santa Clarita. “(At Tuesday’s meeting), the Planning Commission made a finding, by minute action, that the draft capital improvement program for Fiscal Year 2023-24 is consistent with the city’s general plan.” 

In terms of the general fund, the transfers into the account and the revenues, including sales tax, which is the city’s biggest source of income, the city expects to total $141,343,780, with a beginning fund balance of nearly $67 million, for just over $208 million in “total resources available.” 

The city expects to spend $140,972,785, including its transfers out, in the draft figures that were presented to the Planning Commission on Tuesday. 

The review was the city’s latest step in its monthslong march toward approving its annual spending plan, which the City Council is expected to discuss next week. The city’s previously announced plan expects for the budget to be formally adopted at a June 27 council meeting.  

“This is an important step in the annual budget process that is done each year and is required by the state,” Pledger wrote, referring to the commission’s finding on the draft capital plan, which identifies major projects the city plans to look at in the next year. “Staff look forward to presenting the recommended budget at the City Council meeting next Tuesday, June 13.”  

While the city has long touted its frugality in terms of government spending, Councilman Bill Miranda said in a phone interview Wednesday that it was especially prudent this year, and he praised the efforts of city staff in creating another balanced budget. 

“We have to obviously always spend wisely,” Miranda said, noting he considered the city’s roller rink plan as probably the most significant capital improvement project in the plan, which is expected to cost about $1.8 million. 

“I think the city has always been conservative in its fiscal policies and I think probably more so this year than some others because of the indicators that don’t look good for any city right now,” Miranda said.  

Councilman Cameron Smyth said residents should be “very comfortable” with the 2023-24 budget. 

“As we continue to be conservative but always looking to address areas of need, again whether that’s road maintenance, graffiti abatement, parks expansion and other capital projects, we always do that with an eye on the bottom line,” he said.  

He also advised against reading too much into the city not having too many capital projects in this year’s budget, because those projects “kind of have a pace of their own.” 

While the city was planning frugally, he and Miranda both pointed out the city completed a number of projects in 2020, like the Canyon Country Community Center, while many other places had essentially shut down. 

“I think we are very cognizant that the state of California is facing a $30 billion deficit this year and we want to keep an eye out as to: Will that continue in future years? Will that impact Santa Clarita? Is that an indicator of an economic slowdown?” Smyth said Thursday. “So, I think the staff is smart to be conservative this year as we feel out what the next several years will look like.”  

In past meetings, City Manager Ken Striplin has discussed a number of challenges facing local governments throughout the country, including rising interest rates and significant inflationary costs, in addition to anticipated cost increases.  

“The Fed recently approved its 10th consecutive rate hike, raising its key interest rates to approximately 5%,” Striplin wrote in his opening statement of the draft budget. “In response to these efforts, inflation continues to decrease in small increments month after month. For the month of April 2023, the Consumer Price Index for the U.S. dropped to 4.9% compared to 5% in March and a peak of 9% in June 2022. Although the Fed has signaled that the rate hike campaign may come to a halt, the fight to regain control over inflation is not yet over.” 

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