A■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
special meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 30 at 4 p.m. for a workshop to discuss the FY 17/18 budget in the Hemet City Council chambers. The workshop was broached during the May 23 regular council meeting, where Councilwoman Karlee Meyer asked when council would receive the budget workshop documents.
“Obviously, we have had a lot of key priorities lately,” responded administrative consultant Joy Canfield. “We have been trying to get things done and what we are going to be presenting is not a budget document because obviously, we want to get input from the council before we prepare the actual budget document.
“So we will be presenting drafts of things to look at, as far as what the budgets are and a number of items for discussion, as well as revenue estimates and a lot of information…with the idea that we would then come back at the next city council meeting with a draft budget with your input worked into that budget,” continued Canfield. “That is my idea of what we would be doing on the 30th but you will have at least summary pages to look at and the actual pages from the budget to look at. We are working on preparing those right now.”
Canfield’s contract was amended during the meeting to include an additional $50,000 because, according to Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown, who is currently acting as city manager while Alex Meyerhoff is away on city business, “The initial contract was optimistic in both the dollar amount and the duration. Council is expecting a detailed budget preparation May 30 and the hours and dollar amount that were authorized in this contract are rapidly coming to an end.”
Canfield has been contracted to the city for about two and a half months and most of the $50,000 from the original contract has been spent.
Canfield states ‘no time’ to prepare draft budget
Canfield addressed the timeframe for council receiving the documents stating, “We are hoping they go out with the agenda on Thursday.” However, later in the meeting she stated that a budget document will not be ready by Thursday because they “just do not have the time physically to finish preparing that.” Canfield said a draft of each department’s proposed expenditures with summary pages for the coming year will be provided by Thursday.
“I feel like we have all this money to approve…if it’s going to be our responsibility to approve, then it probably needs to be gone over and obviously, there are things going on, but there are things going on every year. The information is hard to get and to be told to look at last year’s [budget] to prepare for this year’s is a little bit disrespectful, maybe,” stated Meyer. “I think we need to be getting this information as soon as possible to go over real numbers.”
“I can put that information out but I would be bringing a budget that is not balanced,” responded Canfield. “I don’t think that was the intention. So we have been working with the departments on trying to bring balanced budgets forward. That obviously takes work…some coordination with all of our department heads…and so that is what we have been working on the last few weeks. Not an easy task.”
Meyer responded to Canfield with, “The fact that you aren’t bringing us a balanced budget is OK; that’s why it’s a workshop.” She added that cuts should be a policy decision, not necessarily a staff decision. “We will share the pressure with you. So you need to look at us as this is partly our job as well.”
Canfield explained that if a 350-page document is prepared and council wants to change it, then it is a “waste of staff resources.” If changes are made, then they have to recreate it each time changes are made. It takes a lot of resources to put the documents together. “They do not just spit out of the system,” stated Canfield.
Approve it to find out what’s in it?
Hemet Councilman Michael Perciful commented that council ultimately has to sign off and the information should be given forthright. If the staff priorities are different from the community’s, then that needs to be addressed earlier on so staff’s time is not wasted.
Perciful’s main fear is that “this is getting pushed too far and that we as a council will not have enough time to review this mega-document…that is going to have a lot of information on it and we are going to get down to the wire and then we are going to be forced to either approve something or not approve and then we don’t have a budget and then are we shutting down the government?”
Council could pass a resolution to adopt the prior year’s budget to continue operations going forward until the issues of the budget are worked out and adopted, according to Canfield also stating, “There’s no legal requirement to adopt a budget by June 30.”
Meyer commented after the meeting that this is “absolutely unacceptable.”
Last year, budget discussions initiated almost a month earlier and recommended that the council invite public comment, engage in discussion and provide direction to staff on additions, deletions, changes and clarifications. Several public hearings were held before the proposed budget was posted on the city website for public view.
Acting City Manager Brown said he expects additional FY 17/18 budget hearings to be scheduled.