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Bob Kellar: Live from City Hall

Posted: June 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

"Responsible," "on time," "balanced," "lean" and "sustainable" are words used to describe the city of Santa Clarita’s budget and budget practices, and that’s something your City Council is extremely proud of.

We’ve worked hard to build a responsive local government our residents and business owners respect and trust, and a city others want to emulate.

This year the City Council approved an on-time and balanced budget of $180.6 million for fiscal year 2013-2014, a 1.31 percent decrease when compared to the fiscal year 2012-2013 adopted budget.

The new budget is consistent with the city’s goal to be conservative with spending and mindful of future challenges and opportunities, even with an improving local economy.

At the council’s direction, the city’s reserve has increased to 17 percent of general fund operating expenditures, or $13.1 million.

The 2013-2014 budget is comprised of $85 million in general fund dollars, with the remainder derived from federal and state allocations, grants, special district assessments and special taxes.

I note this distinction of funds because sometimes people believe the city’s entire operating budget is solely at the discretion of the City Council.

However, more than half of the city’s annual budget is earmarked for specific areas, services, or projects, such as dollars derived from the stormwater assessment, library and gas tax, or transit grants, and can only be used for those purposes.

The new budget provides the necessary funding to deliver exceptional service to the entire community, including newly annexed areas in the city, while laying a strong foundation for new opportunities.

The City Council takes a detailed approach to reviewing the budget and allocating funds where they are most needed, and what follows are highlights from the 2013-2014 budget.

Public safety and parks

remain priorities

Public safety remains one of the largest General Fund budgets at $21 million, which is a 33.5 percent increase since the start of the Great Recession.

During the recession, all departments within the city experienced cuts with exception of public safety. This demonstrates the City Council’s commitment to protecting residents and businesses from crime and doing everything we can to ensure Santa Clarita is a safe community.

The newest crime statistics show Santa Clarita is maintaining historically low crime rates, which means this strategy is working.

The Parks, Recreation and Community Services budget totals $20.7 million, underscoring the council’s commitment to fostering a strong, safe community.

Providing parks and recreation programs for youth has always been a priority and complements the city’s proactive approach to public safety by keeping kids busy, focused and out of trouble.

Capital improvement

projects

The Capital Improvement Project budget, at $40.1 million, represents a balanced approach for meeting the community’s current and future needs by funding major projects and ongoing critical maintenance.

The capital budget includes $8 million for our annual road overlay program, about a $1 million increase over fiscal year 2012-2013.

Funding has been allocated for the design to widen the Newhall Ranch Road/San Francisquito Creek Bridge, taking it from six to eight lanes and providing a multi-use path.

In the area of parks, the capital budget includes funding to construct two multi-use sports fields at Central Park as we recognize the parks and its fields are in high demand.

In Canyon Country, the capital budget will provide funding to: construct Canyon Country’s first paseo bridge at Sierra Highway and Golden Valley Road; refurbish the medians along Soledad Canyon Road and Via Princessa; and to begin design and environmental work for the Sierra Highway Bridge over the Santa Clara River.

The budget will also add monument signs at the Highway 14 freeway ramps located off of Soledad Canyon Road and Lost Canyon.

Finally, the capital budget includes funding to improve the Park and Ride Lots on Newhall Avenue at Sierra Highway and east of Highway 14. These two lots were recently acquired from Caltrans, and their condition is substandard. The city received funding from Caltrans to make the improvements.

Other budget items to

note

The Cemex issue has always been a priority for the council and we are committed to allocating whatever resources we need to protect this community, which is why the budget includes money to continue legislative advocacy and coalition building efforts.

The Santa Clarita Public Library continues to see strong attendance at all three branches, particularly among our youth. The 2013-2014 budget includes funding to add a librarian at each branch who will focus on young adult programing to address their unique developmental characteristics and life circumstances.

As part of the Landscape Maintenance District funds, the council has allocated money to design and install way finding signage at Lyons Avenue, Newhall Avenue and Main Street in Old Town Newhall that is consistent with the style of directional signage installed around Creekside Drive.

Our goal is to position Santa Clarita for prosperity, now and in the future, and we are doing that by supporting a strong local economy, building and enhancing our infrastructure, and providing services that meet the needs of our residents and business owners.

Santa Clarita is already one of the best places to live in California, and I am proud to say that we are laying the foundation to ensure our city is one that will be even better years from now and a place future generations will enjoy.

Bob Kellar is mayor of Santa Clarita and can be reached at bkellar@santa-clarita.com. try.

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