Lancaster OKs $43.1-Million Budget in 3-2 Council Vote

Times Staff Writer

The Lancaster City Council voted 3 to 2 Monday to approve a $43.1-million budget that two council members opposed because they said it relied on inappropriate funds to meet a reserve target of 20%.

Increased spending on capital improvements, law enforcement and new staff helped bring the city's operating budget to about $39 million, well above last year's $30.6 million.

Transfers of existing city funds account for the remaining $4.1 million in the budget approved by the three-member council majority, which slashed a proposed staff increase from 18 to three employees to save about $586,000.

Nonetheless, council members George Theophanis and Arnie Rodio voted against the budget for the 1989-1990 fiscal year. Both council members objected to projected revenues of $419,000 that officials expect to raise through a private theater arts foundation.

Earmarked for Theater

Theophanis said the city cannot rely on receiving the foundation money and said it should not be included in the general fund because it has been designated for a proposed new theater.

Rodio criticized the overall presentation of the budget and its reliance on the $419,000 to meet the targeted reserve level of 20%. "If you can poke holes in it, it's not a good document," he said.

But once they had reduced the proposed staff increase, the three other council members said they felt comfortable with the budget. Mayor Lynn Harrison said revenue estimates were conservative and predicted that a midyear review would show a higher reserve than the current estimate.

Officials had requested the 18 new employees in a variety of city departments, saying they were needed to keep pace with the city's growth. Lancaster's population grew to about 82,000 residents last year, a 10% increase.

Increase Adequate

Although the council approved only three of those positions, City Manager Steve West said the city would be able to manage with a new staff size of 198.

The budget also includes a $16.5-million capital improvements program, of which 72% will go to street resurfacing and other traffic-related projects. The council approved a law enforcement budget increase from $5.1 million to $5.6 million. The money will fund the addition of two deputies to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's three-man anti-gang unit in the Antelope Valley, as well as an additional community services officer.

The council, which also acts as the city's redevelopment agency board, approved a new redevelopment agency budget of about $25 million. That money will go primarily to fund projects that are already under way.

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