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City budget recommendation down 28 percent

Officials look for ways to reduce budgets without impacting services

Posted: May 5, 2009 9:59 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 7:00 a.m.
 
There's no budget deficit on the horizon for Santa Clarita, but city officials are cutting costs in light of the recession.

City Manager Ken Pulskamp is recommending a balanced budget of $171.7 million for the 2009/10 fiscal year - a 28 percent, or $66.6 million, decrease from the previous year.

The new budget will be approved by the City Council in late June. The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Pulskamp gave the council an overview of the budget during a study session Tuesday.

Projections for expenses versus revenue have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the current fiscal year, according to Pulskamp.

General fund expenditures for 09/10 are expected to be $76.9 million and revenues are projected to be $77.4 million - leaving a buffer of $502,092.

By comparison, the buffer at the start of the current fiscal year was $5 million.

The city has so far retained a 15 percent operating reserve - about $11 million.

Twenty open city jobs remain frozen, and while there have been no pay cuts, there are no pay raises for the time being either, Pulskamp said.

The city has also saved more than $500,000 by reducing temporary employees, overtime and training budgets.

Department budgets were cut by $5.4 million, City Treasurer Darren Hernandez said. Of that, he said $4 million in cuts were in the submitted budgets and $1.4 million in cuts were made through line-item reviews by Pulskamp.

"The departments worked very hard to identify ways to reduce budgets with the goals of not seriously impacting services," Pulskamp said.

At present, Hernandez does not expect a deficit in the 09/10 fiscal year.

"We believe the risk is minimal," he said, and added that if over the course of the year a deficit seems imminent, further budget cuts will be made. "We are in better shape than the typical city. We just never imagined the severity of the recession would be this extensive."

Several of the city's capital improvement projects are on hold in light of the sour economy.

A Canyon Country community center, gym expansion at the city's activity center and expansion at Central Park have all been back-burnered, Pulskamp said.

The budget-building process has focused on cost-cutting, but the 09/10 budget is not without some additions.

Included in the general fund is a 3 percent - $532,723 - cost-of-living adjustment in the city's contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and $15,000 toward a design study for a city/county civic center along Citrus Street in Valencia.

Also requested is $860,000 to fund the city's first-time home-buyer program. The cost would be offset by grant revenues, Pulskamp said, and the money could provide loans for four to six eligible families.

A number of capital projects are still on track, bolstered by $13.5 million in federal stimulus money the city has secured.

The capital projects budget includes $520,000 in landscape maintenance district money for landscaped medians in the Valencia Industrial Center on Avenue Scott and Avenue Tibbits.

A new traffic signal will be installed at the future intersection of Newhall Ranch and Golden Valley roads, using $320,000 of streetlight maintenance district fees.

That intersection will likely not be open until early next year, when the Interstate 5-to-Highway 14 cross-valley connector is scheduled for completion.

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