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Construction Inflates Budget in Santa Clarita : Government: The $66-million draft proposal is $16 million higher than last year. It anticipates no layoffs or cuts in major programs.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Most city departments here are tightening their fiscal belts for the third year in a row, but construction projects dominated by street and trail work have inflated Santa Clarita’s 1994-1995 draft budget to $66.3 million.

Spending in the preliminary document is about $16 million more than last year.

The budget proposal includes no cost-of-living pay increases for employees, other than sheriff’s deputies, and leaves three full-time posts unfilled. Two assistant planner jobs will be vacant for the entire fiscal year and an associate planner job will not be filled for six months.

No layoffs are proposed and no major programs are to be cut.

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“The budget reflects the third year of relatively flat revenue trends clashing with increasing costs to maintain the same level of services,” said City Manager George Caravalho in his annual budget message.

Santa Clarita expects to bring in $54.4 million in the upcoming fiscal year, with sales and property tax revenues totaling only about $531,000 more than the prior year because of a stalled real estate market and a sluggish economy.

“We’re pretty much locked into the status quo,” said Councilman Carl Boyer. “I think we’re fortunate it’s hold-the-line rather than cut, cut, cut.”

More than $24 million in construction work is outlined for the 1994-1995 fiscal year. Topping that list is $11.3 million to widen sections of San Fernando Road, $3.2 million to repave city streets and $2.3 million for bicycling and walking trails.

Most city departments submitted budget requests with no increases from the prior year, but some new expenses are outlined.

--About $910,000 covers the cost of an expected legal fight against a proposed 190-million-ton dump in Elsmere Canyon. The canyon is outside Santa Clarita’s city limits, but elected officials fear it would harm the underground water supply, air quality and property values.

--About $620,000 funds previously expanded bus routes, including a new route to Century City, for the entire fiscal year.

--About $600,000 covers a 5% cost-of-living increase for sheriff’s deputies. Santa Clarita contracts for police protection with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the added cost maintains existing service levels.

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--A $575,000 reserve prepares for expenses tied to the Northridge earthquake that the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not reimburse to Santa Clarita.

Although not included as part of Santa Clarita’s city budget, an additional $10.8 million in construction projects is outlined for the next fiscal year as part of Santa Clarita’s Community Recovery Plan.

The plan was adopted in February for the city to recover from the Northridge earthquake, improve infrastructure, redevelop blighted areas and build affordable housing.

Top projects in that redevelopment plan include $3 million for low-income home loans and $1 million each to repair quake-damaged homes, encourage public transit and install a drainage system in the Four Oaks neighborhood. Other projects include $500,000 for landslide prevention, $350,000 for quake-related school repairs, $333,000 for earthquake safety retrofitting and $300,000 for a community center.

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That plan has been challenged by the Castaic Lake Water Agency in a pair of lawsuits that contend many of the projects in the 30-year plan are not true disaster recovery projects. CLWA officials say the plan diverts property tax revenue and therefore hampers the water agency’s ability to pay off its bonds for a new water treatment plant and other projects.

Council members will begin a series of budget sessions Wednesday and adopt a final document June 28.


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