LANCASTER — This city's proposed budget for next fiscal year will increase by only 2.8%, but city officials said that increase is a welcome indication that the area's long-awaited economic turnaround is at hand.
"We look at it as being a healthy sign," Gary Hill, the city's finance director, said Tuesday. "California is coming out of the recession, and Lancaster is along with it. We did see a little growth last year. We're looking at more growth in the coming year."
Sales tax and property tax revenues are expected to climb during the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, Hill said. The total proposed General Fund budget, unveiled this week, stands at $33.6 million.
"We have been able to utilize the improvement in the local economy to increase the quantity and quality of services, while remaining a highly efficient organization," City Manager James C. Gilley stated in his written budget message.
Unlike last year, when the city laid off four public works employees, the 1995-96 spending plan calls for no layoffs. Indeed, the proposal urges the hiring of two more full-time workers: an administrative assistant and a park maintenance employee.
Lancaster's plan to modestly expand its work force and its overall spending comes on the heels of a similarly increased-budget proposal from neighboring Palmdale, which also expects to avoid layoffs in fiscal 1995-96 after several years of staff cuts.
Both cities suffered economic setbacks in the early 1990s, after going through an explosive period of growth during the 1980s.
One of the major items in Lancaster's budget is a proposed $10.1 million to be paid to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for security services. The city is one of 40 in the county to contract with the department for its services.
Lancaster is not the biggest of the contract cities--it's second to Santa Clarita--but it spends more than any contract city for department services. The proposed budget adds $100,000 to this fiscal year's allocation, mostly for additional traffic enforcement and a crackdown on auto theft.
Although major crimes citywide decreased during the past year, the number of auto theft cases--1,036--was up slightly in Lancaster.
The Lancaster City Council will begin reviewing its proposed budget during a public workshop on May 10, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center at City Hall.