Despite the trying economic times, Hesperia is holding steady through sound financial management, Mayor Thurston "Smitty" Smith said Monday.


Smith made the remarks at the annual State of the City presentation, traditionally made at the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon.


"We've been working hard to have a balanced budget," Smith said, "So long as the state stays out of our pocket."


Smith and other city officials were in Sacramento last week, returning to town over the weekend, and what he saw there, he said, was that the state is still open to balancing its budget with funds taken from local cities and counties.


"Everything is still on the board," he said. "It's unbelievable they can't balance their budget."


Approximately 175 people attended the luncheon, held this year at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. As has been a tradition in recent years, the presentation itself was a professionally produced DVD rather than a speech by the mayor or city council.


The DVD highlighted the past year's accomplishments, including the city's new Civic Market and Street Faire, the addition of two new deputies, a decrease in overall crime to 2005 levels, fire department response time improving to 7 minutes and 5 seconds, paving 35 miles of road in the last fiscal year, the opening of the new SuperTarget store and construction beginning on a new fire station.


And, of course, the city continues to move forward on the Ranchero Road underpass project, if not as swiftly as Smith and other residents might like. But after years of delays by CALTRANS, officials expect to break ground in the next 12 months.


"We are still in the process of acquiring [right of way] easements," Smith said. "Roughly 30 years they've been talking about [the project, which would allow east-west access under the BNSF railroad tracks]. It will happen, either this year or next year. Hopefully this year."


But even as Victorville lays off employees, Hesperia's city council and city staff are committed to conservative financial management, Smith said. (Hesperia hasn't laid off any employees, although vacant positions are remaining that way, and some empty positions have been dissolved.)


"We want to keep our reserves in the bank and spend only what's in our checkbook," Smith said.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.