Cuts loom for local upgrades

first_imgSANTA CLARITA – Cities throughout Los Angeles County are reeling from proposed cuts of up to 20 percent to a popular federal program that brought sidewalks and sewers to working-class neighborhoods and jobs to lower-income communities. President George W. Bush’s 2007 budget proposes cutting Community Development Block Grants by $736 million, or 20 percent, though by including funds earmarked for specific projects and related programs, the cut is closer to 25 percent, or some $1.1 billion. Though the grant is restricted mostly for infrastructure and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income areas, the Department of Housing and Urban Development program allows enough flexibility for cities and counties to tailor for local needs, including social services. “CDBG is a very unique resource,” said Erin Moore-Lay, administrative analyst for the city of Santa Clarita. “It was designed specifically with funds for cities to do things that are unique to their cities. It’s restricted for capital (projects), but if your city needed a child-care center, you could do that. If your city need drainage, it could do that.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventBush’s 2007 budget proposal would slash the overall CDBG fund from $4.18 billion to $3.03 billion. If enacted, it could mean an estimated 42 percent cut in the program in three years. The White House has touted the series of cuts as an austerity measure and a way to streamline spending against a swelling federal deficit. The city of Lancaster is expecting $1.4 million from the grant in the 2006-07 fiscal year, down from $1.55 million for the current year, said Cheryl Rose, the city’s CDBG administrator. “We don’t need cuts,” she said. “We still have lots of things to pay for.” The grants have been funneled to nonprofit service groups including the Children’s Center, the Mental Health Association. Each has received some $1.5 million from CDBG over the past decade, Rose said. The city also has leveraged the grants into loans for larger infrastructure projects, including road widening along the Fox Field Industrial Corridor. Rose said companies such as Rite Aid and Michael’s, which have distribution centers there, have created some 1,100 jobs. The city of Santa Clarita has received about $1.3 million from the grant for the current 2005-06 fiscal year, and is expecting $1.1 million in the upcoming year under the 10 percent decrease instituted in the 2006 federal budget. With a new round of proposed cuts, the funds will drop to roughly $800,000. Over the past decade, that has translated into $7 million in sidewalks and gutter improvements in East Newhall, a primarily working class Latino neighborhood and in parts of Canyon Country, Moore-Lay said. About $250,000 went to the Santa Clarita Child and Family Center, and $1.2 million into the building the city’s new $7 million community center. Since the facility opened in January, sign-ups for programs – from after-school classes to English and citizenship classes – have totaled 1,500, compared with 1,000 that could fit into the old center – a converted warehouse on San Fernando Road, supervisor Hope Horner said. “It’s meant a lot for the community,” she said. “It’s a dream come true.” Los Angeles County, which administers the program for unincorporated areas and 49 cities with less than 500,000 residents, expects about $30.8 million from the grant in the 2006-07 fiscal year. It’s a cut of more than 10 percent from the $34.6 million collected in the current year. For 2007-08, a 25 percent cut could slash the grant to just $23.1 million, said Tricia Tasto, the county’s intergovernmental relations manager. The money has paid for housing rehabilitation for the low-income, graffiti removal and senior meal programs. To preserve the program, county officials last week lobbied lawmakers in Washington, meeting with the local congressional delegation. “The Board of Supervisors are going back to D.C. at the end of this month, and CDBG is one of their top priorities,” Tasto said. Santa Clarita also has stepped up federal lobbying. “We’re really dedicated to mitigating (the cuts) as much as we possibly can,” Moore-Lay said. “Do I believe we’ll not get any cuts? Probably not, but we’re going to try to get smaller cuts if possible.” Besides lobbying, the county has attempted to minimize the cuts by paying for programs such as graffiti removal out of pocket, said Linda Jenkins, CDBG manager for the county Community Development Commission. “It’s looking to have alternative funding sources for code enforcement and graffiti,” Jenkins said. “The 5th (supervisorial) District’s kind of taken the lead on that, saying these are quality of life issues and should be funded out of county funds.” But even creative financing can’t fully cover reductions of this magnitude amid ongoing moves by the Bush administration to starve the program. “It’s really tough for the federal government right now, and domestically, many programs are being eliminated or cut back,” Jenkins said. “Every little cut with these nonprofits over the years – before you know it, they’re down to being funded for $10,000 a year, and that doesn’t go very far.” [email protected] (661)257-5253160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more