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By Shawn Raymundo
With two weeks to go before the end of the current fiscal year, councilors on Tuesday, June 17, adopted the city’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget that included some last-minute caveats, as well as renewed the city’s contract for police services.
The council voted, 3-1, in favor of adopting the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, ending a previous stalemate that had stalled the passage of the city’s annual appropriations package earlier this month. Acting Mayor Laura Ferguson voted against the proposed budget.
According to the budget, general fund expenditures for FY 2021 are roughly $70 million, down from the $78.4 million that was planned in the current fiscal year’s adjusted budget. Nearly half of next year’s coffers are earmarked for public protection such as police, fire and marine safety.
Anticipated general fund revenue for the next fiscal year is projected to reach just north of $68.2 million—about $1 million less than what the city had anticipated collecting this year. Most of the city’s general fund coffers, or 54%, will come from property-tax revenue.
Displeased with the lack of any contingency reductions to address potential revenue shortfalls due to the ongoing public health crisis, both acting Mayor Laura Ferguson and Councilmember Gene James had voiced opposition to the budget as it stood two weeks ago.
Ferguson on Tuesday remained opposed to the budget despite additional amendments James proposed that loosely addressed some of their prior concerns. The first caveat guarantees that a lifeguard position will be filled, while another one requires adjustments be made should revenues fall short of their quarterly targets by more than 1.5%.
During Tuesday’s night’s meeting, the council was slated to discuss a continuing resolution for interim expenditures meant to ensure the city’s essential services and payroll for staff continued past the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
James, who had explained that he only asked for a contingency plan and wasn’t suggesting additional cuts at the previous meeting, made the motion to pass the FY 2021 budget with his proposed caveats, negating the need for the continuing resolution.
Clarifying James’ proposal, Assistant City Manager Erik Sund said he agreed with the caveats and that staff will come back monthly with a report on revenues and expenditures, then come back quarterly to address potential adjustments.
Following the passage of the budget, the council voted unanimously to approve the $17 million police services contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. According to the contract, which increased by $205,875 from the current fiscal year, about $13.7 million will account for personnel. Another $1.9 million is allocated for overhead.
OCSD’s staffing level for those stationed in San Clemente—excluding regional and shared personnel—would remain the same from this current fiscal year. Out of the 53 officers and specialists, 37 account for deputy sheriffs.
Noting that councilmembers didn’t receive the city’s 328-page budget until five days before they were scheduled to hold their budget workshop late last month—less than a week before they were to vote on it—James opined that there needs to be a better budget process in place next year.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.