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City's future projects may be put on hold

• Tight state, federal funding mean less for Santa Clarita

Posted: May 8, 2008 3:15 a.m.
Updated: July 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
A rocky state and national economy means Santa Clarita is not likely see funding allocated for any new big projects over the next year, city officials said this week.

Due mostly to a drop in housing development revenue, city officials are expecting to see a 2 percent drop in total revenue in the 2008-2009 city budget, City Manager Ken Pulskamp said as he presented the preliminary budget at a council study session Tuesday.

"We tried very hard to be responsive of the economic conditions that exist," he said. "This is not the year to take on any new projects or any new programs."

Total general fund revenues are expected to reach $87 million, which is a decrease of almost 2 percent from this year's budget. City officials are looking to spend a total of $82 million, a 1 percent increase since last year.

Funding will likely continue for existing projects and services, but Pulskamp recommended reevaluating construction funding six months into the budget year before committing to construction contracts for new projects and new phases for existing projects.

The Parks, Recreation and Community Services department will likely get the largest chunk of funding with an estimated $20 million.

Officials expect to continue funding the expansion of both the Santa Clarita Sports Complex and Central Park, as well as acquire land for a new community center in Canyon Country.

Pulskamp is also recommending funding to add an arts and events coordinator position, create a new flag football league and add swimming pool lane lines at the city's aquatic center.

Officials recommend law enforcement receive a $19 million budget, which will include funds to add three new deputies.

"This increase in staffing will help keep response times low and make sure we're doing everything we can to maximize officer safety," Pulskamp said.

With a budget of about $4 million, the Community Development department will likely allocate funding to progress with the Newhall library and streetscaping in downtown Newhall.

Also on the list of priority projects is the expansion of the joint county and city civic center, as well as the cross-valley connector bridge, which would cross over the Santa Clara River to connect Golden Valley Road in Canyon Country to Newhall Ranch Road in Valencia.

Pulskamp also recommended funding to purchase two 45-foot-long city commuter buses because "in the morning hours, the buses going down to downtown L.A. are standing room only," he said.

He said sales tax typically goes up about 4 percent per year and is the largest form of revenue for the city. This next budget year, however, will likely see no growth in that area for the first time, he said.

"That's not good, but it's better than a lot of other places," said city Treasurer Darren Hernandez. "For many other communities, ... it's simply devastating."

Councilwoman Marsha McLean, who is a member of the League of California cities, said Santa Clarita is in good shape in these tough economic times, especially when compared to other cities throughout the state.

"There are an awful lot cities having a really tough time and are on the verge of bankruptcy," she said.

The budget will go before the City Council at a public hearing on June 10.


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