Wildomar Faces Painful Cuts; Vows To Remain A City

During Thursday's special meeting, city council members made it clear: disincorporation is not an option.

Make painful budget cuts or lose cityhood. These are the choices confronting Wildomar as a result of last week's passage of Senate Bill 89.

So, city staff scheduled today's special city council meeting to address the options. While many points were discussed during the meeting's open session, city council members made it clear: disincorporation is not an option.

“We are going to stay a city, one way or the other,” said Mayor Marsha Swanson.

As a result of SB 89, which was passed into law last week as a part of the state budget package, The 22 percent general fund cut came just hours before the new fiscal year began July 1.

Forgoing disincorporation, during Thursday’s meeting city council directed staff to analyze existing contracts with an eye toward cuts.

The biggest target Thursday – and the city’s biggest expense – was law enforcement.

According to Assistant City Manager Gary Nordquist, the city is contracted to spend $3.8 million this year for police services through the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The money buys 72 hours of police service per day, Nordquist said, explaining it amounts to “already thin service levels.”

Per the contract with the sheriff’s department, the city can make changes within 10 percent of existing services, but anything beyond that requires one-year notice, Nordquist said.

Staff will meet with sheriff’s department officials to determine where the city might trim public safety, Nordquist said.

Fire services, which are contracted through Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, will cost the city $1.8 million this year – Wildomar’s second biggest expense. While the contract will also be analyzed, city council members expressed hesitation about cuts, especially during peak fire season.

Other contracts that will be under the microscope include one for legal services. Currently, city attorney fees range between $300,000 and $400,000 annually, Nordquist said. Suggestions from the public on ways to cut these fees included holding fewer city council meetings and curtailing litigation against legally operated medical marijuana facilities.

A contract with the city’s IT services consulting firm, Interwest, will also be analyzed.

Nordquist said staff is also looking at its existing City Hall lease. The space in the Albertsons shopping center on Clinton Keith Road costs the city $10,000 monthly through the end of 2013. Early termination of the lease, in exchange for a more cost-effective spot, is on the table.

The city’s joint powers agreement for animal control services via the Southwest Communities Animal Shelter was also a point of contention. The city is expecting to spend more than $350,000 for animal control this year.

Other ideas offered included cutting back on council member travel and insurance packages, more cost-effective ways to maintain the city’s three parks, and staff cutbacks.

“Having this money cut is almost a death sentence for us,” said Wildomar resident and former City Councilwoman Sheryl Ade. “But it won’t be forever. It’s temporary.”

Ade’s words resonated for Swanson.

“It’s temporary -- I love that idea Sheryl. This really is temporary," Swanson said, and she called on the community to come together.

For her part, Ade said she would work for the city unpaid on a part-time basis.

In addition to Wildomar, the new cities of Eastvale, Jurupa Valley and Menifee are also greatly impacted by SB 89. In total, the four new cities lost $15 million in general fund revenues. Additionally, East Los Angeles – which has been working toward incorporation – is looking at the dire impacts of SB 89 on its potential cityhood.

Regardless of what happens in Sacramento, Wildomar city officials said they aren’t banking on any money being returned to local coffers.

City Manager Frank Oviedo said, “We’re looking at it as if the money is not coming back.”

Ken Mayes July 08, 2011 at 05:10 PM
What the city manager makes is outrageous considering he was surprised by the loss of funds passed by the state legislature, you would think it is part of his job to watch these things. But that being said what he makes and all of the moneys paid to city council and city employees pales in comparison to what is paid out to police and fire. Between city manager, employees and city council you have about whats payed out for animal control.
David Pereira July 08, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I'd join a volunteer fire department in a second. Any able-bodied male who takes pride in his community should. Maybe this is something the city should look into.
Wildomar Resident July 08, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Someone really needs to explain to me the benefits of remaining a City. It appears that the only people getting something out of this are those on the payroll. Whether they are doing it for the money or the power is not clear to me. What is clear is how the costs to run this City have increased since we became a City. $10,000/month to rent space for a City Hall? Big salary for City Manager? $3,000/month consulting fees? Crazy contracts with Animal Control? This is not a temporary situation at all. We’ll be broke before we see any relief from Sacramento or Wildomar based property taxes.
Diana July 09, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Making things happen was a whole lot easier when one was dealing with the County the City of Wildomar is impossible.
Gene Trosper July 11, 2011 at 01:46 PM
I found dealing with the county to be relatively easy. All I hear about dealing with City Hall are complaints. As for the benefits of remaining a city -- I have yet to determine what these benefits are. Life living in an unincorporated are of Riverside County was fine with minimal drama.


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