The city of Wildomar will face a slight budget shortfall for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the biennial budget approved Wednesday by city council.
For 2017-2018, the budget remains in the black, but it calls for drawing approximately $140,000 from reserves in 2018-2019, which will bring reserves down to around $837,000.
To get to the city’s goal of holding 10 percent of expenditures in reserves, the city would need over $200,000 more next year.
However, not included in the budget approved Wednesday is the approximately $2.3 million the city is set to receive from state vehicle licensing fees, which a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown returned to the city in May. The delay is because there is still no set date for receiving the money, Wildomar city manager Gary Nordquist said at Wednesday’s meeting.
“You’ve heard of ‘trust but verify,’ but with the state it’s just ‘verify,’” he said.
So it’s likely that VLF funds will negate the deficit currently predicted.
The city budget totals about $21 million for 2017-2018 and $24 million for the 2018-2019. About half of monies from both budgets come from the city general fund.
It’s a very conservative budget, Nordquist said.
“It’s a survival budget, base service levels. There’s no staff (additions), there’s no cost of living increases,” he said.
There are, however, increases for some staff based on performance, as well as increases for executive staff based upon contractual obligations.
The budget provides no increase to staff insurance benefits, which Nordquist said have been at the same level since 2008, when the city incorporated.
Sales tax revenue is expected to increase 8 percent over last year, though Nordquist said it does not factor in sales tax from projects that have not broken ground but are expected to be completed by the end of the 2019 fiscal year. Property taxes are expected to increase 5 percent.
Wildomar Mayor Timothy Walker said he was concerned.
“Every dime we get in property tax goes just to the sheriff’s contract, so I thought that was amazing, myself,” Walker said. “Disturbing, too.”
Nordquist agreed it was concerning, and noted that despite the increases, the city still will not receive a substantial police force.
The city has budgeted for eight full-time police officers, or about one officer for every 4,000 residents.
But despite the increased costs, Councilwoman Bridgette Moore said she’s satisfied with the job the sheriff’s office is doing.
“We were on the safest cities list of 100 cities,” she said. “We were number 71. And we were recognized. So we may have a very small department, but they’re doing their job and we’ve got good people and that was fantastic to see.”
“The service levels that have been provided to the city have just been incredible, but that’s just the cost,” Nordquist said in response. “Those are the numbers. That’s the sales tax, that’s the cost of police, and like I said, we don’t have a robust service level of police, so it’s just a real challenge.”
Adding to the increased public safety costs is the loss of a $300,000 police credit from the county set to expire on the city’s 10th anniversary.
“When we incorporated, the county saved money,” Nordquist explained. “Well, the money that they saved, they had to share with us for 10 years.”
The council also approved an approximately $500,000 budget for both years for the Wildomar Public Cemetery District, for which the council doubles as the board of trustees.