Keep Hemet Safe says Measure U money should only be used for new ‘boots on the ground’ as promised
■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
Even though recruitment and retention costs were included in the initial Measure U plan, the Measure U Oversight Committee requested on June 12 that the council-approved Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) for retaining current members of Hemet’s public safety unions be paid through the general fund reserve and not Measure U. The Oversight Committee prefers that only recruitment costs for Measure U positions be paid for by Measure U funds.
The suggestion, made by members of the Keep Hemet Safe Coalition, was a result of the May 30 budget work study. Coalition members Howard Rosenthal, Robert Davis and Eric Gosch were in attendance. Davis and Gosch are also members of the Measure U Oversight Committee.
Rosenthal requested that the MOU funding for Hemet Police Officers Association (HPOA), Hemet Fire Fighters Association (HFFA) and Hemet Police Management Association (HPMA) is allocated from the city’s general fund reserve account.
Committee members argued that recruitment and retention costs inhibit the ability to fund more “boots on the ground” that the Keep Hemet Safe Coalition promised to voters.
Keep Hemet Safe concerned about spending
“I am here today on behalf of the Keep Hemet Safe Coalition. I am so happy that the members of this community came together for common purpose and passed Measure U in order to enhance public safety and return the streets of Hemet to the decent, law abiding citizens,” said Rosenthal. “We have concerns over the draft budget that was released last week. As you might imagine the Keep Hemet Safe Coalition has anticipated the release of the full year budget, including the anticipated Measure U revenues. We were concerned to see that that the police budget had expenditures of over $6,600,000.
“This amount was inconsistent with the multi-year implementation which Chief Brown discussed with people throughout the educational campaign for Measure E and U and represented to us, the coalition. The draft budget presented to the Measure U Oversight Committee had significant carry-over in the first year,” continued Rosenthal.
Rosenthal said he was concerned that 100 percent of the costs of public safety salary increases were budgeted from Measure U, which may affect the ability to support the funding of 1.2 officers per thousand residents. Rosenthal stated that if all of the Measure U revenue is committed, “it would seem to cap HPD at 86 sworn [officers].”
“The solution, in our minds, is to request that the city only apply the increased costs associated with Measure U personnel to the Measure U budget,” said Rosenthal. “This forces, perhaps, the general fund department to find where possible, more efficiencies in the budget, or perhaps with 20 percent as a policy of reserves, and I think you are at over 26 percent – you might look at reserves for this first year.”
The staff report for the budget work study held on June 13 states: “The proposed General Fund budget, as amended, will require $2,011,400 in reserve funding to cover the cost of negotiated contract changes for the HPOA, HPMA and HFFA groups for fiscal year 2017-18. In addition, reserve funding of $770,830 will be required to cover the costs for fiscal year 2016-17 for a total reserve usage of $2,782,230.”
Budget for FY16-17 may not balance
Administrative Services Consultant Joy Canfield presented the budget information to the Measure U Oversight Committee at its June 12 meeting. The budget work study staff report, prepared by Canfield, states: “The general fund reserve balance is currently estimated at $12,882,089 at June 30, 2017 which would leave a balance of $10,099,859 or 20.6 percent of the general fund operating budget for FY 2017-18, including the Measure U related budgets.”
The city budget for FY 16/17 may not balance as was previously thought at the quarterly budget update given on April 25. The city’s staff report predicts: “Based on the current expenditure levels, additional general fund reserve funding may be needed to cover overages in the FY 2016-17 operating budget. Staff will return to Council at year end to outline adjustments if needed. If the adjustments result in the general fund reserve falling below the 20 percent level set by Council, Measure U funds can be designated to cover the portion of the reserve requirement attributable to the Measure U budget.”
As one example, according to the staff report, “the Measure U Police and Fire budgets total $7,090,100 for fiscal year 2017-18. The reserve requirement needs an additional $1,418,020 in reserve funding to maintain the 20 percent threshold. If this portion of the general fund reserve is needed to cover city operations, Council can designate a portion of the non-allocated Measure U revenues to cover the reserve requirement in the future. Staff will be working on updating the five-year projections and developing recommendations to reduce the ongoing dependency on general fund reserves.”