Hemet 2017-2018 fiscal year draft budget approval is still in limbo

Still not satisfied with the draft fiscal year 2017-2018 budget as presented by city staff, Hemet City Council has once again resolved to delay it for up to 90 days while questions asked about the proposed expenditures of each department are answered.

The council and some members of the public who spoke at the city council meeting, July 11, expressed concern about the costs accumulated by the city attorney in past years that were not paid and the revenues and expenditures proposed by the city-owned water department for 2017-2018.

The city’s newest council members, Karlee Meyer and Michael Perciful, have led the way in seeking a better understanding of the city’s proposed expenditures for 2017-2018 and a strategic plan that would clarify the city’s budget goals for the next five years. City staff has provided the council with proposed departmental budgets, each time a little more detailed as requested. But Meyer still believes there is a need for an even better explanation of each departments requested expenditures in the draft budget that should be reviewed by the city council.

“We have asked for this for weeks,” Meyer said. She believes that some of the “encumbrances were off” in some of the numbers. She held up some budget estimates provided her by several department heads after being asked. “I got more than I asked,” she said.

She said she believes the department heads do not want to give the council members their proposed budgets, even though they were asked to do so.

“They don’t want to bring us the numbers because they are loyal to you,” she said, pointing the statement to City Manager Alex Meyerhoff. “This is just unacceptable.”

In previous meetings, Meyerhoff and finance consultant Joy Canfield told the council that it would take a lot of time for each department head to come up with precise revenue expectations and their expenditures for the fiscal year, but given the time, it could be done as requested by the council. Meyer said she was “frustrated” with the city manager for not getting the budget information to her sooner as previously promised.

The city council learned from the city attorney that the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget did not have to be approved June 30. But, any questions on items in the draft budget need to be resolved by the council no later than Sept. 30, when all bills due for 2016-2017 have to be paid and new revenues will be available for use.

Because questions remain on the proposed 2017-20 18 draft budget, the council voted to once again delay the final budget approval for up to the 90-day limit, but provided residents with the assurance that essential city services, such as fire, police, water, electricity, gas, etc., would continue and that all the city’s contractual obligations would be met. Under the Resolution Bill No. 17-045, the city will “ensure continued funding of the city until Sept. 30, 2017, or until the city council earlier adopts a fiscal year 2017-2018 budget.”

Under Section 2 of the resolution, the council does “adopt the Measure U Budget and Expenditure Plan for fiscal year 2017-2018 as attached hereto and incorporated therein by reference as Attachment ‘A.’ A copy of the Measure U Budget and Expenditures Plan is on file in the office of the city clerk and is available online at the city’s webpage.”

The resolution also approves the 2017-2018 budget attributable to the previously approved memorandum of understanding with the Hemet Police Officers Association, Hemet Firefighters Association and Hemet Police Management Association regarding their salaries and benefits. The monies to make those payments would come from the general fund reserve until the new budget is approved.

The resolution also provides for the city’s formal spending limitation of $104,310,206 for fiscal year 2017-2018.

The city council originally planned to “go dark” for its July 25 meeting, but they agreed to hold it on time to once again to review the draft 2017-2018 fiscal year budget and possibly approve it.

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