Hemet City Council hears fiscal year 2018-2019 revenues have increased, expenditures down

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Hemet City Council and staff members display poster following their $500 wearing pink donation to the Susan G. Komen Inland Empire in the last few weeks with Komen representatives present. Tony Ault photo

The Hemet City Council received some “good news” from the city’s finance director Tuesday, Nov. 12, who reported the General Fund revenues in fiscal year 2018-2019 were up 7%, or $2 million, above the projected revenues.

Lorena Rocha, city finance director making the fiscal year-end review and quarterly update thorough Sept. 30, said higher revenues were due to increased sales taxes, property taxes and builder development fees. She explained that the year-end report she was making is a preliminary report made by the city’s independent auditors with the final report coming in January or February.

In a slide presentation, Rocha showed the increased city revenue totaled $42,979,247 with sales tax collections up by $900,000, property taxes and vehicle in-lieu fees increasing by nearly $1 million and development fee collections also up. She did not include Measure U revenues in the report.

The city’s expenditures totaled $41,068,167 nearly $1 million below the previous year. The cost reduction is mainly due to vacancies in several city departments and the city departments’ efforts to control costs, according to her report.

Rocha showed the fire department, however, was over its budget as well as the city attorney and liability budgets, but still keeping the overall budget down.

The city attorney went over budget because of increased litigation expenses with the city being reimbursed for any cases settled for over $250,000, with one case still outstanding and awaiting settlement.

Even though the preliminary reports show the fire department is over its budget this fiscal year, the General Fund is still below budget, City Manager Chris Lopez said in discussion. He said an analysis showed the departments’ expenditures are still down from the previous years due to internal administrative changes, addressing non-discretionary overtime and recruiting to fill vacancies in the department. Currently all five of the city’s fire stations are filled with three-man coverage unlike many previous years.

Rocha gave the preliminary Measure U year-end report showing revenues this fiscal year increased from $11,096,607 to $11,736,852. Measure U expenditures for the police department total $5,286,539 and the fire department at $1,730,000. The reserve fund balance totals $11,680,431 for the future.

The council accepted the report, expressing some relief.

The council, with Councilmember Karlee Meyer absent, approved the purchase of two electric vehicles for use by public works and the police department and four electric vehicle charging stations for a total cost of $112,575.04 at the Nov. 12 meeting.

The two vehicles, Nissan Leafs, with a range of 150 to 226 miles per charge, and the charging stations will be purchased through the Local Government Partnership Program Contract upon legal review, according to the city analysts report. The council was assured the funding will not come out of the General Fund.

The city currently has electric charging stations in the city hall parking lot and at the library and police station. The new stations will be installed near the current stations and will accommodate all older and newer electric vehicle hookups.

Before the resolution to approve the purchases, Councilmember Michael Perciful expressed concern that the current electric charging stations were not being used enough and questioned the need for more stations.

The council was also concerned whether the new stations would accommodate connections with the older electric vehicles or not. They were assured the hookups are all universal and could accommodate both.

The public charging stations are used by the public and drivers who have payment cards for the stations, whose payments are reimbursed for the electrical power used.

An hourlong discussion about requested ordinances revising all the city’s building codes to reflect the changes sent down from Sacramento was led by Perciful. The councilman argued the state’s building code mandates that the city has to follow will not help alleviate the critical homeless needs for affordable housing.

“It will drive the cost of housing up,” he said.

Two resolutions amending Chapter 14, Buildings and Building Regulations of the Hemet Municipal Code and Fire Codes, were adopted on first reading in a 3-1 vote with Perciful voting “no” on both. The council did agree to review all of its building codes in light of the state’s mandates in an upcoming work session to see which ones have to be changed and what others can be retained.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.