By City Councilmember Kathy Ward
For the city, the New Year begins July 1, bringing with it new funding for services and new planned projects.
First of all, the budget is balanced, as always, and the city is in a positive position. Revenue is forecasted conservatively and we never spend more than we receive.
The city of San Clemente is a full-service city because we provide our own water and sewer services and are not part of a special district. The city contracts out just over half of our service delivery, such as facilities, parks and street maintenance. We also contract out some of our engineering, planning and building functions as well as police and fire services. The city operates with fewer full-time employees than it did previously when we had employees performing all maintenance and we had our own police and fire departments.
While the city and its staff have been able to provide services in our departments without a large
increase in costs, we have experienced significant increases in the Sheriff’s contract and Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), which has increased a five-year average of 4.7 percent ($3.1 million) and 3.4 percent ($1.7 million), respectively. The entire sheriff’s contract is $15.7 million and the OCFA contract is $9.9 million for this budget cycle.
This year, the City Council added two new deputy positions to our sheriff’s contract and a fourth firefighter has been added to OCFA staffing levels.
For me, the largest takeaway for this year’s budget is the city continuing to be diligent in its monitoring of the budget and react immediately to signs of an economic downturn. Our long-term financial plan looks back five years for trends in cost increases and revenues, while we also look ahead five years to ensure our services are sustainable.
The City Council just voted to put an increase to our Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) on the ballot in November. TOT is a tax on visitors who stay in hotels in our city. The tax is currently at 10 percent and the Council is asking the voters if it should be increased to 12.5 percent. An increase in the fees will provide additional revenue to pay for increases the city faces in future years, like public safety costs, maintenance of the beaches, beach trail, Pier, sidewalks and streets, all amenities that visitors use when they visit our city.
A quick overview of the city’s budget process and financial investments. We follow a long-term financial planning process. Our financial and budget policies are conservative. We have reserve funding in place. We have minimal debt. Our investment portfolio is in safe, liquid and in well-diversified funds. Most capital projects are funded.
The city received this award for last year’ budget. San Clemente maintains a triple-A (AAA) rating by Standard & Poor’s.
Budgets are important, and your city and employees are striving to provide the best services possible to meet our mission statement.
Kathy Ward is a San Clemente City Council member who was elected to office in 2014. She served as the city’s mayor in 2017.