Santa Clarita kicked off the first budget study session for the 2024-25 fiscal year with a slightly more optimistic tone than last year but with a call to try and stick to the capital improvement plans in Santa Clarita 2025, as the city’s costs are expected to grow with a significant number of projects in the pipeline.
While last year’s forecast started with considerable fears of a recession returning based on the previous quarter, City Manager Ken Striplin had a few positives to report this time around.
While filming — an industry that brings a financial benefit the city estimated to be in the tens of millions each year — almost completely stopped for a while, the local economy remained positive, he said.
“The number of businesses in our community grew to 9,860 in the first quarter of 2023 — an increase of about 18.3% compared to the first quarter of 2022,” he told a roundtable-style gathering of City Council members, city commissioners and staffers who lined the walls in chairs next to them in the Carl Boyer Conference Room at City Hall.
“This directly correlates to the increase in the number of jobs in Santa Clarita,” he said, adding the total number of jobs in Santa Clarita increased by about 9.5% over the same time period.
“On the new construction side here in Santa Clarita, the Building and Safety Division issued over 7,000 permits at an estimated value of over $650 million in new construction in 2023,” he continued.
The UCLA Anderson School of Business forecast, which is one of the models the city uses in its projections, also expects residential construction to grow in 2024, which creates growth and housing, as well as some of the challenges Striplin also mentioned, such as infrastructure needs and costs.
While praising the work of the Sheriff’s Department and attributing the recently reported 10% year-over-year increase in Part-I crimes to “special directives and prosecutorial changes made by the District Attorney’s Office,” he said the numbers represent a concern the city is watching.
However, any actions would likely have an added cost.
“2024 will continue to be brand new challenges and require us to be more creative in our approach to addressing crime trends, with an emphasis on new technologies to create greater efficiencies and addressing crime and reducing the crime rate,” he said.
City Councilwoman Laurene Weste reiterated her previous idea of looking into a special prosecutor if the district attorney continues to refuse to prosecute crime.
Striplin said the city always budgets with a conservative philosophy in mind, but the city’s growing number of facilities and permanent maintenance costs, coupled with the potential uncertainty in any budget, called for a “stick-to-the-plan” approach in terms of 2025.
To make his point, he shared a list of new amenities and facilities the city recently obligated itself to, including: The Cube ($16.4 million); the new Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station ($69.2 million); and the Canyon Country Community Center ($53.8 million), to name a few. The recently approved project list totaled $205 million in one-time budget expenditures, but $3 million to $6 million in annual ongoing costs.
Upcoming improvements slated in the city’s future plans include: park upgrades and build-outs ($82.7 million); a roller rink ($25 million); and a cultural arts and veterans center ($8.3 million) among others. Those projects are expected to total at least $196 million more, with about $10 million in annual ongoing costs.
The next discussion of the budget is expected to happen April 22 with the council’s Budget Subcommittee.
City officials expect to have a spending plan in place for the City Council to approve at its June 25 meeting.