By Mayor Pro Tem Chris Hamm
As you are aware, public safety has been my number one priority over the past six years. Thankfully, with the support of the community and city staff, we have finally been successful in adding deputies to our annual Sheriff’s contract. Last month, my colleagues and I voted to add two deputies to our contract in an effort to reduce the workload and crime in our community. In order to accomplish this, there was some great work done by our staff and I need to recognize their contributions.
First, I need to commend the city staff and the executive team at the city of San Clemente as they made it possible to provide a solution. To that end, on June 12, as part of the adoption of the city budget for the fiscal year, the City Council approved the addition of two field deputy positions to the city’s Police Services contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). In order to provide funding for the increased number of deputies, the City Council directed staff to implement citywide reductions to departmental budgets as well as a reduction to the overtime budget within the Police Services contract.
The first place we cut was the City Council’s contingency account, resulting in less discretionary funds available for incidents or special needs that arise throughout the year.
In order to increase deputies in the field, every other city department was forced to make cuts as well. City department budget reductions covered a wide range of items, and the public will likely see the impact of operational changes as these budget cutbacks are implemented. For instance, a 60 percent budget reduction for outside contractors providing plan-review services will require more plan review work to be done in house, resulting in longer wait times for these services.
For Beaches, Parks, and Recreation, the two “Movies in the Park” special events will be eliminated. Also, beginning July 1, the Ole Hanson Beach Club will no longer be open on Sundays and will be closed to the public at 5 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, one hour earlier than current hours. The San Clemente Aquatics Center will remain open for public swimming during these times. (Note that Friday and Saturday hours at the Ole Hanson Beach Club will remain unchanged).
In addition, part-time staff hours at the front desk at the San Clemente Aquatics Center will be reduced Monday through Friday as well as part-time lifeguard hours at the beach will be reduced, with schedule changes being made to cover employee breaks. Furthermore, a reduction in parks maintenance supplies budgets may mean reduced maintenance at City parks and/or deferral of equipment replacements to a future year.
Other budget adjustments may not be seen by the public immediately but will impact services. Membership dues for the city’s involvement with Orange County Human Relations Council, the Association of California Cities-Orange County and the California Coastal Coalition will all be discontinued. General budgets for professional services, legal costs, printing and supplies are also seeing reductions in some areas.
The city of San Clemente is an amazing city, with a lot of history and community pride. It is important that residents and businesses feel safe, and that public safety is and always will be, the number one priority. The solution was achieved by both the city and OCSD working together to benefit the community. So, remember, next time you see a city or contract employee, please take the time to stop and thank them for the service they give to this great community.
Chris Hamm is the Mayor Pro Tem of San Clemente. He was elected to City Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.