The city of Santa Clarita is once again starting its annual public budget process in a City Hall conference room with its council and commission members.
City Manager Ken Striplin usually kicks off the discussion with talk of the economic forecast, which last year largely echoed national concerns about recessionary fears based on a slowdown seen at the end of the 2022 calendar year.
This year’s preliminary estimates for the fiscal year 2024-25, which are “minimum numbers” for discussion, according to city officials, project general fund revenues that could reach $148.4 million, and approximately $148 million in general fund expenditures.
City officials said the numbers are likely to change, and for context, at this point in last year’s budget study session, $139 million in revenue was projected for its general fund, against $135 million in expenditures.
“This process takes approximately six months, typically beginning in January and culminating in June, with the adoption of a balanced annual budget,” according to the study session agenda prepared by City Clerk Mary Cusick. “The budget process involves the members of the City Council, the commissions, all city departments and the community.”
The final approved budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, accounted for $141.3 million in general fund revenue and expenditures totaling about $141 million, with a $370,000 operating surplus. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, revenue totaled $133 million and expenditures $132.7 million.
Public safety, at $34 million, is predicted to remain the largest projected general fund cost. That’s based largely on the cost the city pays through its Sheriff’s Department contract, which was a little over $33.3 million in 2023-24. Last year, the contract stipulated a slight cost-of-living adjustment.
Money generated from sales tax, which is the city’s largest general fund revenue source, is projected to increase by 2.2% in the early numbers.
“We still have to go through the budget preparation process, which includes reviewing all requests from city departments and addressing all the issues presented earlier,” according to a statement shared by Carrie Lujan, communications director for the city of Santa Clarita.
Despite the economic uncertainty facing city officials last year, Striplin mentioned a few feats from City Hall, namely: a top-tier ranking the city enjoys from the state auditor, a AAA credit rating from Standard & Poors and an operating reserve that allows the city to meet its growing pension fund obligations.