For Wildomar residents who want to make suggestions to city leaders about the 2011-12 budget, there’s still time.
On Tuesday, Wildomar Assistant City Manager Gary Nordquist led a budget workshop for residents, designed to answer questions and let the public weigh in on where money should be spent.
About a dozen residents turned out for the event, but according to City Clerk Debbie Lee people who missed the workshop can contact Nordquist through the end of the month with suggestions and questions (see below).
“We really need everything before June 3,” Lee said Tuesday.
The 2011-12 fiscal year begins July 1.
Public input is critical, Nordquist said during the workshop. The first-draft 2011-12 budget shows the city is facing a $293,200 shortfall.
Expenditures expected to dramatically increase this year include a nearly $200,000 uptick in animal control fees and a hike of approximately $100,000 for fire services.
Revenues expected to sharply decrease include a nearly $100,000 drop in local sales tax, a $133,000 dip in motor vehicle license fees, and about a $75,000 decline in property tax.
Engaged residents on hand for Tuesday’s meeting expressed concerns and offered some suggestions on how to balance next year's budget.
Wildomar resident Martha Bridges asked whether the city was working with the county to renegotiate its outstanding debt.
“Yes we are,” Nordquist said, explaining that he met with county officials three weeks ago to discuss alternative repayment on the outstanding debt of approximately $1.5 million.
The debt, which is currently structured at a 4 percent interest rate with a balloon payment in the future, was incurred during the transition to cityhood, Nordquist said.
Wildomar resident Gil Rasmussen offered some alternative options to fund the city’s parks should Measure D fail on June 7.
That initiative asks Wildomar voters to approve a Community Facilities District and an annual base tax of $28 to pay for maintenance of the city’s three existing parks.
Due to budget constraints, Rasmussen suggested closing Heritage and Windsong parks, but keep Marna O’Brien open. He offered that, like the baseball fields at Como Park on the Wildomar Cemetery grounds, sports leagues that use the facilities at Marna O’Brien should take responsibility for caring for them.
Rasmussen, who sits on the Wildomar Cemetery District board, said the arrangement at Como Park has been successful.
“Young people who use the fields should take responsibility for maintaining them,” he said. “It’s good for the children and it’s good for the community.”
Rasmussen provided a handout at the meeting with his suggestions (see attached).
“The opportunity for hundreds of youth to invest their labors into the maintenance of existing taxpayer-owned sports fields presents a real-life training ground for young people to understand the value of everyone’s labors in a community,” Rasmussen wrote in his proposal, and said utility costs at Marna O'Brien could be paid for out of city coffers if staff's travel/meeting expenses were trimmed.
, officials will be looking at what to do with the parks if Measure D fails. The public is invited to comment.
Looking at the big-picture issue of a prospective budget shortfall, Wildomar resident and former City Councilwoman Sheryl Ade said, “People need to realize things can change.”
Ade said the city council needs to remain fluid in its thinking, given the challenges ahead.
“These are extraordinary times,” she said, noting that in the short term some sacrifices need to be made.
Ade questioned specific budget line items, including the expected animal control expenditures.
“Are we looking into this?” she asked.
“We are investigating it,” Nordquist said. “There is something wrong.”
Other wish-list items from residents in attendance at the workshop included better trail access, safe alternative transportation options to encourage bicycling and walking, and smart development of sustainable businesses.
Overall, the workshop's tone was civil and offered open dialogue.
“We all want things to get better both individually and for the city,” Bridges said.
For those who want to provide input to the city regarding next year’s budget, contact Gary Nordquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents can also attend and provide comments to staff and elected officials.