The second Menifee Measure DD Informational Town Hall meeting drew a small crowd Oct. 20, at Paloma Valley High School and the message was the same: The one-cent sales tax measure must pass in the Nov. 8 general election or the city will not be able to make up $4.45 million in revenue lost to the State of California.
City Manager Robert Johnson, in a video presentation made to those attending the workshop concluded:
The approval of this item, which would place a 1 percent sales tax measure “until ended by the voters for the November 8, 2016 General Election Ballot to allow voters of Menifee to decide to tax themselves to support the on-going development of the city, fix our roads and streets, solve traffic issues, maintain 9-1-1 response times and continue to grow Menifee’s quality of life.”
Johnson explained to one resident critical of the tax measure that the city’s revenue loss does not reflect a “deficit” in the city but a “revenue loss.”
That revenue loss, explained the city manager, is because Gov. Brown vetoed a recent bill that would have restored $21 million to the city’s coffers after the state in 2011 abruptly took the Vehicle License Tax fees away from three southwestern Riverside County cities including Menifee, Jurupa Valley and Wildomar. The VLF money was reportedly taken to help the state balance its budget presuming the three newest cities in southern California would not continue their unprecedented growth.
The city, said Johnson, was able to make up for some of the revenue losses by reducing non-critical city services, keeping the number of new hires down and keeping up with public safety contract service costs that include fire and police protection in the city. Those costs will continue to rise.
He showed that in a June 1 budget workshop the council learned that the city would face a projected $2.5 million budget shortfall in revenue in fiscal year 2016-17 with Menifee losing another $4.45 million in VLF. The city has already lost $20 million.
He noted the city reduced expenses by $4.7 million in fiscal year 2015-16 and another $2.3 million this year yet public safety costs continue to increase each year, police by 7.49 percent and fire 5 percent.
This year it is confirmed that sheriff contract costs will increase 5 to 6 percent, the budget report says.
“The city has no control over rising costs other than reducing staffing level of police/fire, dropiing in quality of life,” he reported
He noted the city has been trying to identify alternative revenue sources, in addition to securing the return of the VLF, property tax and sales tax and development fees in order to provide a long-term solution to solving annual budget revenue budgets.
He said then, “Annual operating budget cannot sustain continuous cuts without severely reducing services to residents and diminishing the quality of life!”
He did tell the audience that the Measure DD funds, if passed by the voters, would be used for other purposes, not just public safety.
He went through the different city departments budgets and how the VLF revenue loss would continue to affect the residents’ services negatively unless Measure DD is passed.
“Everywhere you look we have a need,” said Johnson. He said currently the city has 110 building projects on the books and all of those will have some sort of service needs, and not all of those needs will be covered by the current development fees being collected. He said once the projects are completed the developers will no longer be responsible for their upkeep and the city may have to call on residents to maintain those services through additional taxes.
He said if Measure DD passes the “city has no plans for further tax increases.”
He said Measure DD if passed will help the city reduce traffic congestion, improve and repair local free interchanges and overpasses; improve streets, roads bridges and fill potholes; maintain local police, fire protection, paramedics, the local 9-1-1 emergency response times; prevent cuts to senior, disabled, youth programs and other general services by providing $6.2 million annually so long as the residents wanted to keep the 1 percent sales tax (one cent on the dollar). He said the measure does require annual independent audits and all the measures funds be spent locally.
He said detailed information on Measure DD and the video presentation on the measure can be found on the city’s website at www.city of Menifee.us.