The Santa Clarita City Council decided Monday against seeking an independent legal opinion on whether the new city is obligated to repay Los Angeles County for an estimated $2.7 million in services.
"Hiring independent counsel would be too expensive," Councilwoman Jo Anne Darcy said. "Our acting city attorney will be more than adequate."
A report prepared by Acting City Atty. Carl Newton will be submitted to the council for consideration by its next meeting Jan. 14, Darcy said.
During Santa Clarita's incorporation process, the county Board of Supervisors extracted a promise from cityhood backers that Santa Clarita would pay the county's costs to provide such services as fire and police protection through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Newton first raised the issue of the legality of the promise at a Dec. 9 Board of Supervisors meeting. He said the proposed repayment would be in violation of a state law that allows cities to obtain free services from counties during their start-up periods.
Darcy said officials are trying to work out a compromise in which the city would pay the county at least half the amount owed.
The City Council also approved a resolution asking that the county establish a joint planning commission for the entire Santa Clarita Valley.
The supervisors are scheduled to vote today on a general plan amendment that includes population growth projections for the Santa Clarita Valley. According to those projections, the valley will have 270,000 people by the year 2010, an increase of 105,000 over earlier projections.
Several Santa Clarita residents and council members said a higher population projection would invite further development without adequate services.
"The only reason the county is increasing its population projections for our area is because it has projects lined up, and the only way to get them approved is to increase the projections," said Councilwoman Jan Heidt.
"We have to take a stand and say, 'No more,' at least until the city is on its feet," Heidt said.
In its resolution, the council asked supervisors to reopen public hearings on the amendment.