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City staff share budget update 

Santa Clarita City Hall
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Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin presented a big-picture look and a few nuts and bolts on technology spending in a Thursday afternoon meeting of the City Council’s Budget Committee. 

The committee, consisting of Mayor Cameron Smyth and Councilman Bill Miranda, took the opportunity to ask about a range of topics, from potential spending on the city’s legal battles to a question about waiting lists for one of the city’s most popular programs. 

Both described the publicly noticed meeting in the Carl Boyer Room as a great opportunity to receive information and ask questions ahead of the next big discussion and the budget’s eventual adoption in June. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1. 

Striplin said this year and next, as part of Santa Clarita 2025, the city would be bringing on a number of significant projects, everything from Blue Cloud Bike Park to a $25 million roller rink to the city’s adoption of William S. Hart Park, which would be a multimillion-dollar increase in annual operating costs. 

Because of these anticipated costs and some looming uncertainty in the national economic forecast, this year’s spending plan is a somewhat more conservative picture, Striplin said. That’s also part of the strategy to allow the city to maintain a 20% operating reserve, a City Council policy directive, he added. 

Miranda asked again asked how the city can support the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, which is facing recruitment challenges and manpower issues — and the latest challenge is a lawsuit filed by the city of Lancaster against L.A. County, alleging the personnel shortage is creating operating efficiencies in law enforcement contracts that aren’t being passed on to cities. City Council members said they are aware of the lawsuit last week but have yet to have a formal discussion. 

Striplin said there was no easy answer to supplementing local law enforcement in the city’s current budget.  

The city has looked at increasing patrols and in certain public areas, including public libraries, adding that while the parks didn’t have as many issues, the staff were also looking to augment security with technology like cameras as much as possible where incidents were happening. Creating “efficiencies” was the goal, he said. 

One of the ways mentioned was the installation of 50 license plate-reading cameras throughout the city at a cost of $140,000 to install and about $120,000 a year to operate. The readers automatically alert local law enforcement agencies of a stolen vehicle. 

Some of the spending costs identified were routine, others not as much.  

The addition of the Space Force to the U.S. Armed Forces, for example, means the city needs to add a new flag and flagpole to the Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall, which was expected to cost $40,000, Striplin said.  

The city’s anticipated legal challenges to Cemex, a business looking to build a mega-mine east of city limits in Soledad Canyon, have been going on for 20 years. This year, it’s expected to cost another $100,000, which was a question Smyth asked about.  

The mining company is seeking a permit from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board to use the Santa Clara River. The city has been involved in litigation for years over its efforts to stop the mine. 

The topics also reflected some of the costs of growth for a burgeoning city. 

A traffic engineer is being added to the fold to help with planning, which is expected to cost about $155,000. Due to the city’s growth in its “scope and breadth” of events over the last few years, it’s looking to add a “Special Events Division,” at a cost of about $140,000. 

A one-time cost of $90,000 is being sought for a new Master Arts Plan intended to guide the city for the next five to 10 years. 

Another $300,000 is scheduled for a truck-mounted lane-striper.  

Later, in response to questions about projects like a potential amphitheater or convention center, which have been the subject of talks surrounding the redevelopment of the Valencia mall and the former Whittaker-Bermite site in the center of town, Striplin said the city would need a partner to get involved. 

“It depends on what it is and what the city’s participation in that project would look like,” Striplin said, again alluding back to city’s prior ongoing financial commitments. “As I kind of mentioned, in terms of where we are and what we’ve taken on — to be frank, if it’s something that’s just the city, the council would have to make some tough decisions on whether it wanted to do it.”  

The city is expected to hold another joint budget study session at 5 p.m. May 7, when the City Council and commissioners will have another chance to discuss the budget before it’s brought to the council the following month for approval. 

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