City document reveals money meant for police and fire is seeping into the general fund
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The fiscal year 2017-18 budget adjustments passed the Hemet City Council in a 3-1 vote on Feb. 27 with Mayor Pro Tem Karlee Meyer voting against the adjustments. Councilwoman Linda Krupa was absent from the meeting.
The adjusted budget set total resources at $50,359,660 and total uses at $50,009,992. The total resources calculation includes the projected $10,000,000 generated by the 1 percent tax Measure U passed by voters in November 2016. Under total uses, $6,221,366 is allocated for the police department and $1,475,099 for the fire department, totaling $7,696,465. This means that $2,303,535 from the projected Measure U revenue is being included in the total resources.
Measure U is a general fund tax, so legally it can be used to cover anything in the general fund. According to the nonbinding Resolution No. 4731 passed by the Hemet City Council on Dec. 13, 2016, “city council hereby reaffirms Resolution No. 4703 (a certified version of which is attached hereto as Exhibit “A”) and again pledges to abide by the terms and conditions of Resolution 4703 in all respects, including, without limitation, pleading to expend all proceeds of the Measure “U” general transaction and use tax for enhancement of public safety services within the city of Hemet, as provided therein.”
However, the council members present at the meeting, with the exception of Meyer, voted to pass Resolution Bill No. 18-015 amending the fiscal year 2017-18 budget that included the $2,303,535 of Measure U funds in the total resources.
The approved adjustments to the fiscal year 2017-18 budget included the following in the staff report:
The library asked for $39,700 from the Hayden Trust Donation fund for the additional costs related to maintenance and enhancement of their 24/7 kiosk.
Community Development-Code Enforcement requested $20,200 from the general fund for partial year salary & benefits for a full-time Community Development Specialist in code to assist with code programs in addition to funding for code officer overtime for special weekend assignments and enforcement sweeps.
Engineering requested a $140,000 addition from the general fund in hopes to fill vacancies in key positions and requires the assistance of contract engineering services to continue servicing the community for development and capital improvement projects.
There is a $215,000 adjustment to the fund balance for Lighting and Landscaping.
The IT fund balance will be adjusted $42,000 for Information Systems: Professional services for assistance to continue ongoing integration of the city’s GIS system with existing applications and professional services assistance to mitigate several ongoing cyber security threats to critical city infrastructure.
The Public Works Department requested a $9,000 adjustment to account for the additional funding required to cover the cost of changes to call back overtime and is coming out of the Public Works administration fund balance.
An additional $200,000 is going to the annual contribution to the OPEB Trust fund with PARS.
The Hemet Fire Department is asking for a $285,000 from its prior year’s savings in its Measure U fund balance to enhance services by adding a full-time dispatcher position, overtime for the peak-demand unit ($100,000) and $150,000 of equipment.
“Our Measure U plan has been very specific from the beginning. I want to make sure we stay on task,” said Mayor Pro Tem Karlee Meyer on why she voted against the budget adjustment. “We have had a very ‘boots on the ground’ promise to our citizens, so besides equipment for these ‘boots,’ we need to keep our expenses focused. This tax has a sunset clause and it is very important for us to be strategic with any surplus monies we have in this fund.”
Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown commented on the vote, “As fire chief, I remain focussed on the following three principles behind the Measure U spending plan: firefighter safety, operational readiness and fiscal sustainability. Those principals will remain our focus as we continue our work to rebuild the fire department.”
Editor’s note: This story originally ran March 8, 2018. The date of the council meeting was originally reported as Feb. 28. That is incorrect. The meeting was Feb. 27. Councilwoman Linda Krupa was absent for the Feb. 27 council meeting. The vote on this agenda item was 3-1, not 4-1 as originally reported. My apologies to our readers and Councilwoman Krupa.