■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
Days before former City Manager Alex Meyerhoff resigned from the City of Hemet taking a job with the city of San Fernando, he drafted a lengthy response to the state auditor’s report challenging various aspects of how the city is being run.
The city had submitted an initial response to the audit report, then updated it several times – at least once late – but the auditor was still waiting for more information. Meyerhoff’s final response, dated Aug. 3, is the latest in the city’s efforts to address the auditor’s concerns.
Here we review the budget and community engagement portions of Meyerhoff’s letter. The remaining issues identified by the state auditor will be addressed over the next several weeks.
“The City has studied and implemented a number of the State’s recommendations,” Meyerhoff writes. “The City is also pleased to report policy and programs changes which are moving the City towards greater financial stability.”
He continued later in the letter, “On July 25, 2017, the City of Hemet adopted the fiscal year 2017-18 General Fund budget. The FY17-18 General Fund budget includes Revenues of $50.3 million and Expenditures of $49 million. The budget is consistent with the City’s Five Year Financial Management Plan. Pursuant to Resolution #1880, City of Hemet policy requires a minimum of 20 percent General Fund reserve. The approved FY 17-18 General Fund Budget includes a 22 percent reserve, which is consistent with this policy. Reserves serve as operating capital. In addition, the City of Hemet’s General Fund has no bonded indebtedness.”
Meyerhoff states in the letter that the city will continue to receive monthly financial reports. But the city has not had a finance director since Finance Director/Deputy City Manager Jessica Hurst’s departure in late February of this year. Administrative Services Consultant Joy Canfield filled Hurst’s role in the interim and compiled the FY17/18 budget.
Canfield is no longer consulting for the city, but MV Cheng and Associates, the consulting firm employing Canfield, is identifying a replacement.
The Valley Chronicle previously reported: “When looking at page 25 of the budget document, it states that the total estimated resources are $50,359,660 and total estimated uses are $52,366,060. Taking the approved adjustments to the city attorney and capital engineering funds into consideration, the total estimated uses come to $51,662,460. This calculation leaves a difference of $1,302,800.
“The budget does balance if you take the total estimated revenues of $49,800,660 and deduct the total estimated expenditures of $49,096,160. Especially after incorporating the $703,600 removed from the city attorney and capital engineering funds. However, what is included after the total estimated expenditures are total inter-fund transfers ($20,000), Reserved- PEG funds and ambulance penalty fees ($340,000) and Reserved for future Measure U expenditures ($2,909,900). Those figures are used to calculate the total estimated uses.”
In response to the consistent criticism regarding community engagement, Meyerhoff writes “The City is actively engaged in community outreach consistent with community needs and existing resources which include social media, newsletters, websites, publications, city cable channel, city website and other media outlets. The City conducts an annual state of the city address which is open to the public.”
The city utilizes a Facebook page and has set aside a portion of the FY 17/18 budget to send out a newsletter. The city now streams the meetings in the council chamber and posts them on the City of Hemet YouTube Channel. According to the city manager’s office via phone call, a state of the city report is expected during the last week of October.
“The City offers multiple avenues for service to those interested in becoming involved in the community through volunteering,” states Meyerhoff.
He continues, “The City’s planning commission, park commission and traffic commission, Homeless Task Force, Diamond Valley Lake Ad Hoc committee and Skate Park task force provide ample opportunities for community engagement. The city also has a number of structured volunteer programs including Citizens on Patrol, Police Explorers, Fire Explorers, as well as formal and informal volunteer opportunities in various departments at city hall, the corporate yard, the Kovell Building, the Simpson Center and at the library.”
The next items to be addressed are the retiree medical costs, unfunded liability and the underfunded fire department.