Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Men & Women in Blue - "Friends not Foes"

Community Member Question:

Though we need police to serve as our protectors of our families and possessions, they are often disliked until the need arises and their services are needed. In most cases many residents do not associate with the police unless it is at a time that their service is needed and in doing their job, many residents take it personal when they do get their way. How does the city try to mend the relationship with the public and get them to realize they are there for the good of all and they themselves are family orientated and not pushing authority?

City Manager Response:

First, let me say that I disagree with your premise that police are disliked within the community. My experience shows me that police are highly respected in the community and that most people understand they are doing a difficult job for the benefit of the community and for the safety of individuals that live, work and play in Fontana.

Certainly there are some individuals that have had a bad experience with the police, but I believe that this is the minority of individuals and it often has occurred at a time where a situation has taken place where police need to go into harm’s way and take control of a bad situation to prevent it from escalating. This is what police are trained to do and the absence of such influence, some situations would likely move from bad to worse. I also realize that no one likes to get a traffic ticket. But we have laws on the books for the protection of others and it is the police’s job to enforce those laws.

With all of that said, fear of authority often comes from a lack of understanding. The City of Fontana Police Department has many programs that allow its police officers to get out into the community to “bridge” such gaps in understanding. These programs include:

Area Commander Program
This is a program where a Police Lieutenant has assigned responsibility for an area of the City and acts as Police Chief for that area. Between 30 and 40 community meetings are held each year in various areas throughout Fontana. Issues of concern are addressed at these meetings and the Area Commander has the authority to reach into the organization to bring whatever resources are necessary to address the issues.

Fontana Police Volunteer Program
Community members can share in the success of the Fontana Police Department by volunteering for a variety of tasks from office assignments to traffic control at a major traffic accident. The Police Department has a robust Volunteer Program that enhances the level of service the department provides the community.

FUSD Police Chief Program
In this program, a Police Lieutenant serves as Police Chief for the Fontana Unified School District (FUSD) Police Department. This allows two organizations to effectively work in cooperation with each other to address safety needs at various school sites.

School Resource Officer Program
This program places an officer at each middle school in all of the school districts that serve Fontana. This officer works with school children and can target at-risk youth for intervention.

Fontana Police Explorers
Community members as young as 14½ years of age can join the Fontana Police Department’s Explorer Post. This allows them to work side-by-side with a patrol officer. Explorers enjoy working in the police station and in the field at special events

Faith Based Community Meetings
This is a regular meeting between the Fontana Chief of Police and faith based organizations in Fontana to meet, discuss and address issues of common interest.

Breakfast with the Chief
The Chief of Police, in partnership with the Fontana Chamber of Commerce, meets quarterly with the business community to discuss issues that directly impact them.

Community Assistance Program
This is a program undertaken as a partnership between the Police Department and Water of Life Church to bring resources together to address families and community needs within Fontana. The Community Assistance Program (CAP) coordinates resources from around the County and makes them available to individuals needing assistance.

Shop with a Cop and Fontana Santas
These are programs that provide gifts during the holidays to families needing support throughout the Community.

These are but a few of the programs we have around town to begin putting a face on public safety. We also provide Children’s Safety Fairs, Red Ribbon Breakfasts, Teen Fests, Volunteer Programs, Emergency Preparedness, Explorers and many other events and activities designed to encourage community participation in public safety programs.

We are blessed in Fontana to have a very committed and professional Police Department. The men and women who work in public safety are always available to assist Fontana residents. Next time you see an officer, take the opportunity to say thanks for a job well done.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Communication Makes the World Go Round

Community Member Question:

Most people think that government doesn't listen to what they have to say or at least it was my experiences from other cities. In attending various Community meetings, Council meetings and Planning meetings I have been extremely surprised the City of Fontana has heard my requests and were open to making changes.

I had web changes made by giving information and the location to verify, a speed limit sign posted in a location where there were monitoring speeders, asked for locking shopping cart at one of the local store at the planning commission meeting, when they were discussing the building requirements, and they posted the importance of the visibility for verified response on the city statement and on you tube video (KFONTV) smart kids.

The hardest thing was to get a bus stop moved out of the thorough fare of Citrus and moved to a new turn out cove out of traffic’s way. That was because that is not directly under the cities control, but eventually was moved. How is it that the City of Fontana so open to suggestions and most cities seem to have their own agenda?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question. The answer is very simple. Fontana listens to the concerns of its citizens because the Mayor and City Council have made it a priority. The Mayor and City Council view the success of this Community as a partnership between its citizens, its businesses and its government. We can only be successful as a Community if all elements of the Community can be equally successful.

Tax Rate - Same or Higher?

Community Member Question:

Redevelopment plays many parts in a community, the design for job creation, increase in property values of existing structures, low income housing opportunities and much more. Property taxes on land and structure increase as they get new buyers, after redevelopment makes them more desirable to "purchase and once resold". How does the property tax increase due to improved value increase serve the community?

City Manager Response:

I’m sure you understand this, but to make sure there is no confusion, the tax rate for property does not increase when land is improved or resold. The tax rate remains the same, but it is applied to the value of the property which may have increased due to development or redevelopment of the property. The benefit to Fontana from such an increase varies depending on if the property is in a Redevelopment Project or not.

If the property being resold is not in a redevelopment area, the City receives 3.6 cents for every dollar in taxes paid by the property owner. This benefit is extremely low because the state has permanently “stolen” most of the property tax revenues that are normally used to pay for city services. For example, if a property owner that was paying $1,000 per year in taxes now pays $2,000 dollars a year, the City would see an additional $36 benefit.

If the property is in a Redevelopment Project Area, the increase in taxes paid would on average, result in a 70% benefit to the Redevelopment Agency. So in the same example listed above, the Redevelopment agency would see a return of an additional $700. The catch for the Redevelopment agency is that the monies received cannot be used to pay for government services.

The money can be used to pay down debt associated with capital projects such as the construction of streets, sewers, storm drains, etc. This, in part, is why we say that RDA is so critical to economic development. It is the investment of these RDA monies in various projects that allow for new private investment to take place in the community. It is this private investment that then pays a return in the form of increased sales taxes that can be used for paying for government services.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Community Participation is Vital

Community Member Question:

In every city there are issues with gangs and crime. How does Fontana address this issue and what role should the residents play to counter its expansion?

City Manager Response:

The Fontana Police Department has officers trained specifically in the identification and apprehension of illegal street gang members. Once the department is aware of a street gang, they work closely with the San Bernardino County District Attorney to have the court certify the gang and its members as an illegal street gang. Once this process is completed, the gang member receives significant punishment enhancements for the most recent criminal activity.

It is very important that the community work closely with the police department in identifying, not only gang activity, but also any suspicious activity. Police Chief Rod Jones continuously encourages the community to stay involved and stay informed by attending your local community meeting in your neighborhood. These community meetings cover everything from current crime statistics to upcoming community safety fairs.

You can make a difference in your neighborhood and your community by joining your Neighborhood Watch group. If your Neighborhood is interested in starting one if one doesn’t exist, contact the Fontana Police Department at (909)350-7710 for more information.

You can now file a report online anytime of the day by using Coplogic, an online citizen police reporting system at http://www.fontanapd.org/.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Simple Question - Complicated Answer"

Community Member Question:

When looking for a home in Fontana some areas paid about 1% on property tax and others paid an additional (LMD) Land maintenance district and yet others (CFD) Community Facility District fee. What are the differences in the property taxes costs?

City Manager Response:

Let me begin this response by first saying that the taxes and assessments paid by property owners on their homes vary significantly. It is very important, when purchasing a home, to take the time to understand these costs as they may have a significant impact on the long term cost of ownership. All taxes and assessments must be disclosed to the buyer of the property at the
time of purchase, but I find that not everyone takes to time they should in reading through the documents they sign. Taxes and assessments are created by votes of residents or property tax owners and are never optional payment items on the tax bill.

The only constant in property taxes is the basic property tax that everyone pays on their property. This is about 1.1% of the assessed value of the house at the time that it is purchased. Under the terms of proposition 13, this tax can only be raised by a maximum of 2% per year. So in an economy where prices are rising significantly, over time the taxes being paid on the property often have an effective rate well below 1.1% of the market value of the house. As a side note, the City of Fontana only receives 3.6 cents out of every dollar of property taxes paid by its residents. We used to receive a much higher percentage, but the State has taken that money away from the City during prior budget balancing schemes.

Some properties, in addition to the basic property tax may pay an assessment to a Landscape Maintenance District (LMD), Lighting, Landscape and Maintenance District (LLMD), or a Community Facilities District (CFD). It is also possible to have more than one assessment district that a property owner may be a part of. These districts are set up when the development is first approved by a vote of the land owners in the district.

These districts can be used to pay for the costs of the maintenance of common landscape/park areas, street lighting, graffiti abatement in the area, repair and replacement of facilities, etc. An assessment rate is created at the time the district is formed based upon the actual costs of the services being paid for divided by the number of properties sharing the costs in the area. In Fontana, these types of Districts typically cost between $200 to $800 a year. The maximum rate can be increased by 2% per year, but the City has a strong track record of keeping rates consistent in most of our service related districts. The rule of thumb is that rates may change for these districts about once every 7 years. There are a couple of maintenance districts in Fontana that are significantly more costly. These districts cost more because they have significant costs associated with fire suppression areas such as hillsides.

Another type of CFD is one that is created to pay for bonded indebtedness. This bonded indebtedness was created to build the necessary back-bone infrastructure of the community. When the district is created, bonds are issued and the proceeds are used to build roads, storm drain systems, sewers, and parks. These districts are commonly referred to as Mello/Roos Districts. Bonds issued by these districts can be in the ten of millions of dollars and are usually issued for a 30 year time period. Properties in the district are assessed an annual share of the debt service cost which shows up on your property tax bill each year. It is not uncommon for these districts to add nearly another 1% to the property tax bill. When the bonds are paid off, the assessment to the property owner also goes away.

Other common assessments to watch for on property tax bills are water bonds, school bonds, and park bonds. All of these bonds are typically based upon a percentage of the assessed value of the house and must be paid back over time. These bonds can be added to a property tax bill anytime that residents and/or property owners of a community vote to support such a bond measure.

As you can see, it is a complicated answer to a simple question. If you ever need additional information about the assessments or costs on your tax bill please feel free to contact the Finance Department here at City Hall and they would be happy to spend the time necessary to help you understand the specific conditions for your property.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Special Events Support The Community

Community Member Question:

In a blog the Mayor was asked why the city is having some of the events it has with the budget being tight? The Mayor had replied that in the future it would be something that may have to be looked at. My question is, “With the budget being strained in this economy, why does the city have public events that use needed funds?”

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question. You are correct that the economy has strained the City of Fontana budget and the Mayor and City Council have directed staff to look at ways at reducing expenditures. In light of this direction, the City has cut 40 full-time positions and reduced in excess of $1.5 million from its current operating budget, beyond those reductions in staffing costs. These cuts have been made across all areas of the City, including the budget for special events.

Each and every special event was carefully scrutinized in putting together this year’s operating budget. This included the elimination of some of the community-wide special events. Despite those reductions to balance the budget, the City has left money in the budget to continue some of the city-wide special events as a service to the community of Fontana. While various special events will continue to take place, such as the Festival of Winter and the Christmas Parade, they will be taking place at reduced costs. The budget for these two special events has been cut by approximately $90,000 this year.

The City of Fontana, even with a downturn in the economy, still has a General Fund budget of approximately $80 million. With this money, the City attempts to provide a balance of services to the community which includes public safety, parks maintenance, graffiti removal, recreation programs, road maintenance, children’s programming, library services, special events, etc. The key to having a successful community is to provide a “balanced” level of services for the entire community in addition to creating a “balanced” budget.

As a City, we have a commitment to providing quality services and programs, especially during these tough economic times. This includes recreation and entertainment that many families may have had to cut from their personal budgets due to the effects of the down economy. Special events are free or low cost to the community, providing families with opportunities to spend quality time together, outside of their homes.

The City cannot provide all services to all people. We depend on community groups as our partners to provide a variety of programs and services to meet the needs of the community. Special events are important because they also provide an opportunity for many of the local community groups to raise funding that supports their programming efforts within Fontana. The elimination of all special events would significantly impact these groups, which would result in a compounding loss for individuals in the community that make use of the programs and services provided by these groups.

The City keeps a very close eye on the economic conditions of the community and will continue to live within its means. It is our sincere hope that the economy will continue to improve and that we will be in a position to increase services in the future to meet the needs of our growing community.

Reclaimed Water and Future Plans

Community Member Question:

Knowing that Fontana Water Company is NOT a City Of Fontana identity, but a private service provider that has expressed opposition to the city starting a plan to use reclaimed water for the use of irrigation on the city parks and schools, has the city decided to follow through on this water conservation method and what is the estimated saving to the community on a yearly basis?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question regarding reclaimed water. The short answer is yes, the City has plans on making use of its reclaimed water resources by putting those irrigation sources to use throughout the City of Fontana. Typically the savings related to the use of reclaimed water is between 25% and 40% of the cost of normal drinking water. These savings are most often in the areas of landscape district areas, so the savings achieved through these efforts will ultimately be passed on to the rate payers in the districts and to the school district that are served with the water.

Two projects are being worked on currently. The first project is a partnership between the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Cucamonga Valley Water District and the City of Fontana. When completed in 2010, this project will begin making use of reclaimed water to irrigate parks, medians, schools and landscape areas in and around the Village of Heritage. Construction of the backbone infrastructure system will be completed by the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. The Cucamonga Valley Water District (CVWD) will build the extension of this system into the Village of Heritage area and the City will provide a portion of its reclaimed water to CVWD for delivery.

The second of the two projects will cover the south part of Fontana. It is planned that this project and system will be developed by a partnership between the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), Fontana Water and the City of Fontana. This project will serve landscape areas, schools, parks and medians in the Southridge area of Fontana.

The City has developed a conceptual plan for this system that has received support from both IEUA and Fontana Water and we are currently negotiating a service agreement/contract with Fontana Water. The plan is for IEUA to build the backbone infrastructure for this system and the City will build the water delivery system and then contract with Fontana Water for the delivery of the water. Once the service agreement/contract is finalized, the City plans on moving forward with the technical design and construction of the system immediately. It is our hope to be able to build this system with grant and state funding dollars.

The City has also developed a master plan for the development of a reclaimed water system to serve the entire community. The challenge for the larger system is getting water into storage areas at elevations that can supply the needs of Fontana.

Reclaimed water is a significant resource available for the community of Fontana and the Mayor and City Council plan on taking whatever steps necessary to take full advantage of this resource.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Throwing Rocks" vs "Fixing Windows"

A lesson we all learned growing up is that it is a lot easier to break something than it is to make something. I am sure we have all had the experience of either intentionally or unintentionally doing damage to something only to regret those actions later on, wishing we could take back that moment of frustration that we acted on.

Despite this common experience for all of us, I am continually amazed to see people so anxious to tear down the activities of local communities by “throwing rocks” from what they believe to be a place of safety. This can happen through the anonymity of the blogosphere, through uninformed letters to the editor, through newspapers articles that fail to do balanced reporting, and the like.

I have worked in local government for nearly a quarter of a century. During that time I have had the opportunity to have been part of a number of successes and failures. I have received both constructive and destructive criticism, and I have worked with people who have been either supportive or frustrated. I have learned a number of lessons over the years, some of which, I will comment on here.

Lesson One: Throwing rocks is far less rewarding than fixing windows. Anyone can be a critic, but few people take the time and effort to step up and make a difference in their community. I remember a City Council candidate running for election several years ago that I will call “Betty”, not the candidates real name. Betty was set to be elected by the community and elected to use a “rock throwing” strategy throughout her campaign. I sat down with Betty at one point and suggested to her that she would be more successful if she could find things in the City to support and stand behind, in addition to wanting to make changes. Betty could not bring herself to do it; she only wanted to be a rock thrower. She continued to try to tear everything down, and in my opinion became viewed as standing for nothing. Betty lost the election by a large margin because she had no interest in “fixing windows." My advice is to not tell people what’s wrong unless you are equally willing to work at making the community better.

Lesson Two: Things are never as good or as bad as you think they are going to be. People often fall into the trap of thinking that one candidate, one vote, one change, or one program, etc. is going to forever define the future of an organization. I have found this to be untrue. Certainly there are both good and bad changes that take place. When good things happen, there is still the work needed to build on that item or it will not achieve its full potential. When bad things happen, there is still an opportunity to look for ways to turn failure into success for the common good of the community. You often see this played out in elections. People think “when my person gets in everything is going to change.” The truth is that issues are very complicated and there is seldom a one-size-fits-all kind of approach. Becoming entrenched in political rhetoric only makes solutions more difficult. We must all work together to get real improvements made. I suspect that both our State’s Governor and Country’s President would be the first to say, “amen” to that.

Lesson Three: Problems should be viewed as opportunities for new success. Set backs are a part of life. It is our reaction to those set backs that define the make-up of our character. I recall a time, several years ago, when I developed a strategy for a road funding/construction project that I believed was important to the community’s success. I took the item to the City Council for approval, thinking that I had worked out all the issues and expected to be received with praise and accolades. What I received instead was opposition and frustration. I could have taken the response and sulked about it and moved on to something else. Instead, I listened to the comments from the City Council, expanded the scope of the project, and repackaged the idea with a long-term city-wide strategy. When I resubmitted the idea to the City Council it was met with glowing support and became one of the lynch pins for success in Fontana. My advice to all is to look for the opportunities in everything that happens. You will be surprised by what is possible when you maintain a positive attitude.

Lesson Four: Give credit for success and take responsibility for mistakes. We have a simple management approach in the City of Fontana. It is each employee’s job to make their boss successful. It is my job to make the Mayor and City Council successful. It is the department head’s job to make me successful and it is the mid-manager’s job to make the department head successful. It is one of the truly amazing things to see. When you focus on giving the credit away, the organization flourishes and everyone wants to be part of the success.

So my advice is:

1. Support what you can and be willing to be a part of it.
2. Don’t be carried away with unrealistic expectations.
3. Accept new challenges as opportunities for success.
4. Let those around you accept credit for good work.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Annexation - Opportunities and Challenges

Community Member Question:

Since it is plain to see how annexing to improve the area of influence would keep property taxes locally, what are the challenges that the city faces to move forward on annexing more of the county areas?

City Manager Response:

Excellent question.

Before I respond, let me say that you are completely correct - one of the reasons why annexation is important is that taxes currently being paid by the residents in the county areas are distributed to the county as a whole. These funds can be spent anywhere in the county and do not necessarily benefit the local community that generates the taxes. When annexation takes place, the county area becomes part of the city and the money currently being paid by tax payers comes back to the local jurisdiction for allocation. It is important to note that the amount of taxes paid does not change after annexation; only the agency that receives the funding changes.

A second benefit of annexation is coordination of services. By squaring off city boundaries, police and code enforcement activities may be provided more efficiently. You can imagine the confusion that takes place when the Sheriff’s Office needs to be called for service on one corner and the City Police Department needs to be called for crime occurring on the opposite corner. Squaring off borders allows for both agencies to provide more efficient services.

Finally, the county is set-up to provide rural services to the community while a city is set-up to provide urban services. It is not that one agency provides better service; it’s just that services are often provided under a different philosophy. When Fontana was primarily an agricultural community, rural services made sense. As the City grows, there is a greater need for urban services that are typically provided by a city.

Now, let’s talk about some of the challenges to annexation.

Probably the most difficult hurdle to overcome with annexation is the fear of change. Residents pick a place to live and businesses pick a location from which to work for a variety of reasons important to them. Residents and businesses choose a location in the county, not the city, in which to locate. Annexation for these folks represents the possibility of change and change may not be acceptable to them. Since residents and property owners can challenge an annexation and force the issue to a vote, it can make it difficult to complete the annexation process. Equally true is that the Mayor and City Council of Fontana listen to concerns of the residents and businesses and will typically not try to force annexation on an area where a significant number of people oppose the effort.

Another challenge is the cost of services to the area being annexed. Along with keeping the taxes local, the city assumes the responsibility to provide city services within the area being annexed. In most cases where there is a significant amount of residential property involved, the cost of providing services to the area exceeds the revenue generated by the area. This means that other areas of the city may end up subsidizing the newly annexed area, thereby putting a strain on the overall budget.

Third, when the City annexes an area, we become responsible for the ultimate construction and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to support the area. Areas that lack sidewalks, curbs, storm drains, and sewers may create the need to spend tens of millions of dollars in the future.

Finally, much of the area remaining in the County area is part of the County Speedway Redevelopment Area. As such, a number of long term commitments have been made that complicates an already difficult annexation process. To consider annexation of the west end, a number of technical and challenging issues would need to be resolved with both the County and a number of businesses in the area.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"So What Do You Do?"

A few weeks ago I turned 50. My wife had the idea to throw a party for me and to invite people over to my house I had grown up with in school and church that were also turning 50 this year. So, on a Saturday night in September, we opened our house to about 40 people who came over to renew old acquaintances.

It was a lot of fun to see people that I hadn’t seen in 30 or more years. I think if a vote was taken, I would have been voted as the person most changed in 30 years. That aside, after some small talk, the inevitable question was always asked, “So what do you do?” To this question I always proudly answered, “I am the City Manager of the City of Fontana.” Often times, my response was equally met with a blank stare and the follow-up question was asked - “So what do you do?”

Based on these responses, I decided to use my blog today to give a glimpse of what a day is like in the life of a city manager. For this purpose, I pulled a day from my calendar last week and will walk through the day’s activities so you can at least get a feel for what a city manager does.

Before I go through the day, there is one thing I should say. Perhaps what I like most about my job is that there is no such thing as a typical day in my office. Some days are completely filled end-to-end with meetings, while other days may only have a couple meetings scheduled. It often seems to me that the days I don’t have meetings scheduled are the busiest days for some strange reason.

My day starts at 6:00 am when my alarm goes off. After hitting the snooze button once, I roll out of bed and reach for my PDA to see what messages I have received during the night. I see that I have 18 messages that I received while asleep, and I glance through them to see if any of them need to be dealt with immediately. This particular morning I see that one of the messages is from the Mayor asking for some information which I forward to the Public Works Director for follow-up. I then respond back to the Mayor that we will take care of it and headed off to the shower.

I am out of my house by 6:30 and on the way to the office. I typically get into City Hall about 7:00 am. I again check my PDA which has been vibrating away during my drive to the office. I note that the Public Works Director has already responded to the Mayor and to me on this morning’s question. I now have 33 messages that need to be taken care of.

I sit at my desk after walking down the hall to get a cup of coffee. I pick up the newspaper that I brought from home and scan through stories looking for items about Fontana or other local communities that may be of interest. Having fully reviewed the newspaper, I put it in my outbox for later pick-up by my secretary who circulates the paper to the City Clerk’s office.

It is now 7:15 am and I turn on my computer to check the calendar for the day. I see that I have a meeting with all of my department heads that morning, lunch with Mayor Pro-Tem Warren, an afternoon meeting with County Supervisor Gonzales, and a City Council Meeting that evening.

Between 7:15 and 8:10 I work through my messages that I see have now grown to 42, and read through the contracts left for my signature by my secretary. In working through my e-mails, I am asked a question about the possibility of settling a lawsuit that will result in a payment to the city of $270,000. I respond to the sender with some questions about the legal issues as well as the monetary value of the case and ultimately decide to bring the issue to the City Council at an upcoming meeting.

I also see that there was some gang activity at one of our parks to which the police responded. There were no arrests and no one was injured, but I forward the information along to the City Council for their information. I also have a number of questions about the evening’s meeting agenda items sent to me from Councilmember Scialdone. I respond directly to Mr. Scialdone on some of the items and refer his other questions to various staff members for response. I copy my assistant on all of my e-mails and she understands that it is her responsibility to make sure that all issues have been addressed in a timely manner. There are a number of newspaper articles that have been forwarded to me from various sources as well as some operational statistics that I print out and file for later use.

By 8:10 I have cleared my e-mail and gone to work on the contracts on my desk. The contracts that need to be reviewed and signed include a first-time homebuyer loan and a professional services contract for technical support on our new computer system. Also included in the file are expense claims from staff that are requesting reimbursement and leave slips from a couple department heads. The two reimbursement requests I kick back to the department for additional work.

At 8:30 I walk down to the Development Services Building for a meeting with all my department heads. I don’t have an agenda but decide to talk to them about ethics, following procedures, and admitting mistakes when made. I get on my soapbox for about 15 minutes, try to keep things fairly lighthearted, and then go around the room to let each department head talk about issues of importance. The meeting is done by 9:20 and I am back in my office by 9:30 with more coffee in hand.

It’s back to the computer as another 22 messages have been added to my inbox. Messages from City Council Members are printed in red and always get focused on first. By 10:00, the e-mail queue is once again cleared and my secretary Karen brings in a file for me to review.

The first item in the file is an anonymous note from an individual claiming to be a City worker leveling complaints about a co-worker. I don’t like dealing with anonymous letters but the accusations are significant enough that I ask my secretary to call in the Department Head and the Director of Human Resources to discuss. Also in the file is some correspondence to various developers and a policy item for City staff for my review and approval. I sign off the developer letters and make changes to the policy letter and send it back to the department.

It is now 10:40 and I have the department head and the Human Resources Director in my office to discuss the letter I received. We discuss the allegations and I am told the department has already heard about the allegations and had initiated an investigation last week. I spend some time talking about my specific concerns and ask the Human Resources Director to stay on top of the issue and keep me apprised.

It is now 11:00. I am back to the computer and see that I have 43 new messages. Several of these messages are from residents with some traffic and safety concerns. I respond directly to some and others I forward to other staff people for response. By 11:30 I leave the office to meet Mayor Pro-Tem Warren for lunch and then I am back to the office at 1:15.

1:15 to 1:30 I have another several contracts to review and sign off. At 1:30 I am back in my car heading to the County Administrative Offices to meet with County Supervisor Josie Gonzales. Our meeting starts at 2:00 and we discuss a variety of issues. I make a pitch for some possible funding from her for a project the City is constructing in her district and she says she will try to find some money.

By 3:00 I am back in the office. I talk to my assistant Amy to make sure that all of the follow-up items have been addressed before the City Council meeting that evening. She informs me of some potential angry property owners who may show up at the meeting about a proposed street widening project. I ask my secretary to have the City Engineer come by to discuss the project with me prior to the meeting. It is then back to my e-mail.

Another 34 messages are waiting for me and are dealt with. The City Engineer showed up at 4:00 and we talked about the issues surrounding the proposed street widening. That meeting was done by 4:15.

From 4:15 to 4:45 I returned calls from our State Lobbyist, a political consultant working for a local business, and a property owner wishing to create a development agreement with the City Council. By 4:45 I glance through the new messages on my computer to see if there are any that won’t wait and then head to the Executive Conference Room at 5:00 for our City Council workshop.

From 5:00 to 10:15 I work with the City Council at their meeting, and finally head for home about 10:30. I got home at 10:50, checked my PDA one last time to see if I received any follow-up messages from the City Council about the meeting that evening. I did receive a phone message from a City Council member who wanted to clarify a comment they made during the meeting and was in bed by 11:15 p.m.

“So what do you do?” I am the City Manager of Fontana.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Growing Facilities in a Growing Community

When I began working for the City of Fontana, we had approximately 78,000 residents, a city hall, a police department building, and various community centers spread throughout town. Currently, the City of Fontana is home to about 190,000 residents. For the past two decades, the City of Fontana has been one of the fastest growing communities in the nation and current forecasts project we will eventually grow to a population level of between 250,000 and 300,000 people.

During the majority of the past twenty-years of growth, the City has continued to use the same police department and city hall facilities. However, a few years ago, the City constructed a Development Services building just south of City Hall, and is now turning its attention to meeting the needs of an expanding police department.

Development Services Building 2008

Within the next year, you will see additional changes in and around City Hall. First, the Emerald Street Building, which has over time housed the County Library, Code Enforcement, Community Services and Records, will be torn down and converted into a controlled parking area for use by the Fontana Police Department. Once completed, the lower level parking area adjacent to the current Police Department will be converted into additional work spaces, a shooting range, and locker facilities. This expansion will provide sufficient room to grow for the Police Department for years to come.

In addition to creating expanded police parking and
facilities, the City Hall parking area will be reconfigured to add additional parking for community use. This reconfiguration will allow the City to create the parking it needs to serve the community without the construction of an expensive parking structure on the City Hall campus. Monies have been set aside for both the Police and City Hall parking projects by the City Council, and plans for the construction of those projects are currently working their way through “plan check”.

Next year the City will also begin a reconstruction and expansion project of the historic Fire Station 71, located north of Arrow and just east of Sierra. This project will wrap the historic station with a more modern station, capable of meeting the needs of our growing community, and turn the historic station into a fire museum. The new station will require the removal of some grass and trees from Miller Park, but when complete, the new station will allow Fontana to effectively meet the safety needs of our growing community in the most cost-effective manner.

When I became City Manager of Fontana, much of City Hall had been closed to the public. I have never liked the message this closure communicates to the community. Thus, over the past several years we have worked to reopen areas for public access and modernized/remodeled certain areas in a cost-effective manner and without building a new “government palace.”

While some of our City Hall office facilities are older than those in other communities, I believe Fontana has an excellent City Hall with a very friendly and professional environment. Fontana is blessed to have City Council members who emphasize community service over government monuments. It is this philosophy I have tried to follow, and will continue to follow, in the refurbishment of all our government facilities.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Community Services is On the Move

New Community Services Location

The Fontana Community Services has recently moved to their new location in Downtown Fontana located on Valencia Avenue, just west of Sierra. This building served as the former location of the county branch library and will now be used to better serve the residents of this community.

The Community Services Department provides parks and recreation services for the City of Fontana. This new location, centrally located, will bring together the staff of the entire department to better consolidate services. Garth Nelson, the Director of Community Services has expressed excitement about the move and looks forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for the community.

Fontana is very blessed to have some of the best and most well used parks and recreational facilities in the Inland Empire, if not the State of California. Recent additions to these facilities include Center Stage, Fontana Park, the Lewis Library and Technology Center, the Jessie Turner Health and Fitness Center, the Fontana Aquatics Center, and the Heritage Community Center. These newer facilities compliment a long list of other first-class community facilities that have served the need of this community for many years.

Jessie Turner Health and Fitness Center

Prior to this move, the Community Services Department made use of the Fontana Civic Auditorium for their office needs. A few years ago, the Civic Auditorium was closed for use because of seismic structural deficiencies and the fact that it did not comply with the access requirements required under the American with Disabilities Act. In looking at options for the Civic Auditorium, it was determined that it would be more cost effective to tear down the facility and reconstruct it for another use then it would be to try to retrofit the building. This started the City on a process to find both another facility for the Community Services as well as a facility that could be used to host performance events that were held in the Civic Auditorium.

The construction of the new Lewis Library and Technology Center was the answer that met both needs. At the library, the City built the Steelworkers Auditorium which is a state of the art facility that is capable of housing a number of community events and performances. In addition, moving the County Library to this new venue freed up the space they had been occupying which will meet the needs of the Community Services Department for years to come.

When you are in the area, please stop by the new facility located at 16860 Valencia Ave. to say hi and take the opportunity to register for one of our many excellent recreation classes offered around town. The Community Services Department would love to hear from you and to understand how they can better meet the programming needs of the community.

Community Services Department

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stimulus Funds

Community Member Question:

Given that the City is finding it difficult to find eligible foreclosed properties for sale with its stimulus funding, can the funds received by the City be used to help maintain parkways in the City, thus helping to solve blight conditions for all property owners?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question. The City of Fontana has received about $6 million from the federal government for the purpose of buying, fixing up, and reselling bank owned properties within our community. The conditions for the expenditure of these monies include a stipulation that the money can only be used to purchase and renovate bank-owned properties. Each property must be purchased at a discount of at least 15% below market, and must be resold to qualified, low-income property owners.

In buying properties that meet these conditions, the difficulty has been that there are many market speculators attempting to buy up these properties. As such, a bank owned property may receive multiple offers to purchase. These multiple offers make it very difficult to find property that is sold at the 15% discount rate required by the federal program. City-wide, Fontana has been successful in purchasing several properties under this federal program, and these properties are now in the renovation stage.

The funds received from this program cannot be used on general street and landscape improvements, unless those improvements are directly related to the property being purchased. The City does have a number of other tools available to assist areas in dealing with maintenance issues, however, the Federal funds from this particular program can not be used in this manner. Should a resident have specific issues regarding maintenance issues, I would encourage them to call either our Public Works Department at (909) 350-Park or Code Enforcement at (909) 350-7623.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Knock, knock. Who's there? Census 2010

Every ten years, the United States conducts a census. A census is simply an official count of the entire U.S. population (both citizens and non-citizens) and includes demographic information including age, gender, occupation, etc. The census is actually mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and participation in the census is required by law. Despite the fact that the law insists on our participation in the census, we may often wonder what about the true purpose and use of the data collected by the census.

First, it is important to know that federal law protects you from anyone disclosing the personal information you share during the census process. Thus, there is no need to fear that the information you provide will be used against you in anyway. Next, it is important to know how participating in Census 2010 can benefit you and your community.

The census numbers collected are used to directly affect funding for the City of Fontana. Census data will be used to determine how more than $300 billion annually, in both federal and state funding, is allocated to communities for vital projects/efforts including neighborhood improvements, public health, education, and transportation. In the next ten years – between now and Census 2020 – that $300 billion per year will total $3 trillion! It is amazing to know that spending just a few minutes to fill out your census form will help ensure the City of Fontana gets its fair share of federal and state funding.

Your answers to the census can also help your City leadership and other policy decision makers understand how the community is changing. This information may help to inform decisions about City/community services, and will ultimately mean more effectual and successful prioritization and planning for the City’s future.

The census also affects how we are represented and how our voices are heard in local, state and federal government. The census data are used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, the census data are used to define legislature districts, school district assignment areas and other important functional areas.

As you know, the next census is approaching and is scheduled for early 2010. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Census 2010 questionnaires will be mailed/delivered to every household in the U.S. in March, 2010. After collecting and compiling the data collected from the census, the Census Bureau will submit population totals to President Obama by December 31, 2010 at the latest.

Please take a few minutes to fill out the forms when they arrive in your household. Those few minutes will directly affect your community for the next ten years!

For more information on the 2010 Census and how you can participate in your community to support this effort, visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census/.

Friday, July 31, 2009

State Steals Your Tax Money

Community Member Question:

With the state taking away City funds, what can we as residents do to help the City conserve funds?

City Manager Response:

Excellent question and very timely given the adoption of the State budget this week. Before I respond to your question, let me make a comment about the recent State theft of your tax money. Because the State has not been able to live within its means, it has reached into the pockets of Fontana to take money out of our community. The State will keep $2 million of your property tax payments this year (with a promise to pay us back in the future) as well as require the City’s Redevelopment Agency to write the State a check for another $35 million this year and an additional $7 million next year.

So what does that mean to the citizens of Fontana? It’s really quite simple. Since we have no other alternative than to live within our means, there will be $2 million less in the bank available to spend on services and critical community needs. The $35 million theft from Redevelopment means that critically needed traffic, storm drain and other infrastructure projects will have to be deferred or cancelled; fewer jobs will be created for our economy; increased expenses to develop; and, traffic problems will not be fixed.

Please remember, the City of Fontana is not a budgeted expense of the State of California. The City operates on its own revenue streams as a separate legal entity. This is not about cutting State spending, it is about stealing taxes paid in the City of Fontana that are intended to be used in the City of Fontana. Yes, we plan on joining the efforts to put forward a legal challenge regarding the Redevelopment theft, but even if we prevail in this effort, it will take the better part of a year to get a determination by the court. In the mean time, our community suffers.

So, what can the residents of Fontana do to help us conserve money? Certainly volunteering with the City or one of the various community groups is a wonderful and important way to help out. Cleaning up parks, reporting or cleaning up graffiti, volunteering with the Police Department, joining a neighborhood watch program, volunteering at the library, making a conscious effort to “Shop Fontana”, volunteering at a community or senior center, supporting your local businesses, and getting your animals spayed and neutered are all wonderful ways of reducing the strain on the resources needed to support this community.

It has been a tough year financially for the City. We have cut over 50 full-time jobs that included several layoffs. We have reduced spending across the board. All-in-all, we have cut spending by nearly $10 million while continuing to provide quality services to the community. We have worked very hard. This is why the new thefts by the State are particularly galling to me. I am frustrated, but I also remain optimistic about the future of this wonderful community. The Mayor and City Council have a clear vision for what they would like to accomplish in this community. I am very confident that by working together, we will accomplish that vision.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Animal Control Services

For the past several years, the City of Fontana has contracted with the City of San Bernardino for animal control services. Recently, due to budget constraints created by the economy, the City of Fontana was notified by the City of San Bernardino that they would no longer be able to provide those services on our behalf. The City of San Bernardino decided to end field services in Fontana as of July 1, 2009 and said they would continue to provide shelter services through the end of the calendar year.

As animal control services are one of the vital services needed by our community, Fontana elected to begin providing field services to the residents of Fontana as of July 1. We are still looking for alternatives for sheltering services in the future.

The new field program for animal control services, when fully staffed, will consist of four animal control officers, one animal control supervisor, two part-time license canvassers and one call taker. Used animal control vehicles were purchased from both the City of Corona and the City of San Bernardino. Over time, these vehicles will be supplemented with newer equipment as well.

Animal control field services will be administered by the Police Department. Funding for the new program is provided by the City’s general fund. While we believe that our historical costs will increase for these services, the current budget has been supplemented by about $350,000 from current year budgetary savings. The anticipated cost for animal control services for the City of Fontana will be about $1 million per year. Animal control services can be requested using our police dispatch number 350-7700.

Approximately 6,000 animals a year (both dogs and cats) are transported to the shelter in the City of San Bernardino. Dead animal pickup is supplemented through a contract with a company that disposes of dead animals, and also by the use of Public Works staff. For the longer term, the City of Fontana is having discussions with the City of San Bernardino, County of San Bernardino and County of Riverside to consider shelter options.

The City of Fontana is in a similar position to several other local communities. Several cities rely on contract services for sheltering animals. Discussions are under way with these communities about the possibility of creating a joint powers authority (JPA) that would allow several communities to development a partnership for animal control sheltering services. Such a partnership would likely require both an initial up-front capital investment for facilities as well as ongoing costs associated with housing animals that are picked up. Obviously, the significant numbers of animals that are generated by our community make it difficult for an existing shelter to absorb our workload.

We feel the positive side to taking over aspects of the animal control services is that, over time, the City of Fontana will be able to provide improved services within the community. Certainly, as we ramp up the program, there will be some growing pains along the way. We welcome all residents to provide the City with their comments and suggestions as we learn from and work through this new challenge. Also, please note that pet owner responsibility is critical to the success of our program and in assisting us in keeping costs down. Low cost spay and neuter programs are available that are very important to keeping the proliferation of animals to a minimum. This is very important, especially when you consider that the costs spent on animal control services take away from other programs that the community needs.

Thank you for your patience during this time of change. By all of us working together, we can continue to make this city a wonderful place to live.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fireworks in the City of Fontana

July 4th is the day we celebrate our nation’s independence. It is a time for family and friends to come together with picnics, community events and fireworks shows.

In the past weeks, my office has received a number of calls from Fontana citizens asking about the sale and use of fireworks in the City of Fontana. Three years ago, the City Council took an action to ban the sale and use of all fireworks in the City of Fontana. The action was taken for a number of reasons including concerns about public safety and fire dangers. Since many community groups, however, rely upon the sale of fireworks to assist them financially, the City Council elected to approve a phase out period that would result in the elimination of the sale and use of all fireworks by July, 2009.

Last year a petition was circulated within the community, and enough legal signatures were gathered to require a special election to be held in support of continuing the legal sale and use of safe and sane fireworks in the community. Once this petition was certified by the County as being valid, the City Council was left with the option of either calling for a special election or approving an ordinance that would allow for the sale of safe and sane fireworks. The projected cost of the special election was estimated at $400,000. After a great deal of deliberation on the issue, the City Council decided, by split vote, to approve the continued sale and use of safe and sane fireworks in order to spare the significant expense of a special election.

As a result, the sale and use of safe and sane fireworks continues to be allowed in the City. There are a couple of important restrictions to note about the use of fireworks in Fontana. First, no fireworks are allowed to be used in high risk fire areas. These areas are defined in the ordinance as being west of the 15 freeway, north of Summit and east of Lytle Creek. Second, the use of fireworks that are not classified as “safe and sane” (e.g., those that explode or shoot into the area) are strictly prohibited. The Police Department will be out in force again this July 4th and will be citing individuals who violate the City’s code. Fines of $1,000 can be issued for fireworks violations.

Another change this year is related to the annual fireworks show put on by the City of Fontana. For the past several years, the City of Fontana has been hosting a fireworks show for the community at Fontana High School. Each year, this event has sold out and many people have been turned away. Thus, this year, the City has partnered with the Auto Club Speedway and KFROG to hold the annual fireworks show at the Speedway. Discount tickets have been made available to residents of the City of Fontana. The Speedway provides a large enough venue for all to enjoy, and an evening of entertainment and fireworks is a wonderful and safe alternative to setting off fireworks at home. The City of Fontana is very excited about this new partnership and would like to invite all of you to attend this year’s event.

Whatever your plans are for celebrating the Fourth of July this year, please remember to be safe and considerate of those around you. The City of Fontana is a wonderful community with a tremendous heritage of community spirit and pride. Enjoy the holiday and remember to be safe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Active Code Enforcement Program

Community Member Question:

Does the City of Fontana perform regular inspections of rental properties? If there is not one in place, would it be feasible to begin a program such as this in Fontana?

City Manager Response:

To answer your question directly, no, the City of Fontana does not have a fee based program to perform annual inspections of rental units. This is a program we looked into a few years ago and at the time, there did not seem to be a great deal of support for creating such a program. It is likely something that I will bring up again given the change in the market and the City Council’s desire to ensure that property is being maintained appropriately.

However, we do have an active Code Enforcement program in the City, and if you or others are aware of property issues that need to be addressed, please call Code Enforcement and report those conditions. We would be happy to send someone to examine the property and to initiate corrective actions with the property owner.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

City Manager 09/10 Budget Transmittal to City Council

Each Year the City Council considers a budget that allocates resources toward the accomplishment of community goals. On June 15, 2009, the City Council will review and consider the proposed budget, make changes they deem necessary, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year which starts in July 2009. Following is an abridged version of my transmittal letter for the proposed budget which outlines a number of policy opportunities and challenges:

I am pleased to present for your review and consideration the Fiscal Year 2009/2010 Proposed Operating Budget for the City of Fontana, the Fontana Redevelopment Agency, the Fontana Housing Authority, the Fontana Community Foundation, and the Fontana Fire Protection District. This budget has been developed with the guidance provided by the Mayor and City Council to provide the highest level of service to the resident and business community of Fontana.

The proposed budget has been prepared during a recession that has negatively impacted virtually every sector of the business and government community. The worldwide economy continues to worsen with historically high unemployment, job losses across most major sectors, a crippled housing market, weakening taxable sales, and a catastrophic credit market at the heart of the problem.

The State continues the struggle to close their increasing budget deficit. The Department of Finance has prepared a May Budget Revision option for the Governor to consider that borrows eight percent of local governments’ property tax revenues estimated at just over $2 billion statewide, approximately $2 million from the City of Fontana.

The proposed budget reflects declines in most of the City’s major revenue sources. Additionally, the Utility User’s Tax with a value of approximately $4.7 million expires on June 30, 2009. While the City has not depended on this revenue source to support recurring expenditures for some time, the tax did provide funding for vital pavement management projects.

In anticipation of the continuing decline of the economy, a number of the cost-savings measures were adopted by the City Council during the current fiscal year and will carry forward into the new year. These measures include layoffs, the elimination of vacant positions and various other expenditure reductions. Additional reductions have been included in the proposed budget. The City is also offering an early retirement incentive program.

The proposed budget is based on a conservative estimate of recurring revenues and stresses cost containment. It addresses the ongoing requirements of maintaining the service levels to the existing community and provides sufficient resources to open and operate the new Senior Community Center scheduled to open early in 2010. Additionally, it addresses a number of priorities identified by the City Council at their goal setting meeting earlier this year including:

Central Park
Driven by the growth of the community and the push for a healthier Fontana, Central Park will be located just north of the Pacific Electric Trail between Cypress and Oleander. This centrally located park will serve the core of the community and enhance connectivity and the use of the Pacific Electric Trail. Funding for the conceptual design of this park in the amount of $300,000 has been included in the Sierra Corridor Capital Project Fund.

Reclaimed Water
The City generates approximately 1,000 acre feet of tertiary treated water each month. The construction of a conveyance system is needed to utilize this valuable resource for irrigation and water basin replenishment. The construction of a recycled water pipeline in the Southridge area will allow the City of Fontana to irrigate City owned landscape and school properties at a reduced rate while conserving potable water for other uses. Although no new funding is provided, $500,000 for design services will be carried over into the new year.

Police Facility Expansion
The objective of this project is to expand usable space within the Police Department for the next five to ten years, plus build an underground shooting range. The current 26,000 square foot underground parking garage and adjacent office areas will be remodeled to expand the locker rooms, weight room, report writing area, sergeant’s office, and property/evidence storage area; to create a new ingress/egress to access the jail from the street; and to add new storage areas, shooting range, armory, and office space. This will be the first major renovation and addition of space since the facility’s occupancy in 1988 and will allow the return of personnel to the main facility who are currently being housed off site. The proposed budget includes $3.15 million to complete funding of this project; $3 million as part of Capital Reinvestment from the proceeds of the sale of the Park and Ride property, and $150,000 from the Police Capital Facilities Fund.

Valley Boulevard Transition District
An overlay ordinance will be used to amortize illegal and nonconforming land uses and development standards, provide a common “theme,” and incentivize participation from business and property owners to transition Valley Boulevard into a corridor reflective of Fontana’s high standards. Key to this endeavor is relating this process to the planned I-10 freeway improvements and the Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan update. Although no new funding is provided, $300,000 included in the current year budget to complete the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process will be carried into the new year.

Sierra I-10 Landscape @ Boyle
The proposed budget includes $71,000 in the Landscape Improvement Fund to install new landscaping on the Sierra/I-10 overpass at Boyle Avenue.

210 Sports Park
The Fontana Sports Park will be a first class facility similar to a “Field of Dreams.” The facility will provide adult softball/baseball field space unlike anything else in the Inland Empire and is expected to draw tournament level play from as far away as Colorado. The project theme is to take players back to an era when baseball was at its peak and provide a family friendly venue for local residents and travel teams to enjoy. Funding of $1.5 million for drawings and specifications is included in the North Fontana Capital Project Fund.

Green Policies
Another project that ranked high on the City Council’s list was the development of “Green” policies for the City. All departments will be working together to develop and implement the City of Fontana’s “Green Plan” pursuant to State regulations. We are off to a good beginning by reducing the number of budget documents printed this year from 65 to 25.

Citywide Budget
The proposed budget provides resource planning, performance measures, and controls which permit the evaluation of the City’s performance. It assures the efficient, effective and economic uses of the City’s resources, and sets the direction for the City, adhering to the City Council’s Budget Development Guidelines and top priorities:

o Economic development
o Public safety
o Investment in infrastructure
o Community-based recreational and cultural services
o Public services and Public Works projects
o Long-term financial stability
o Investment in newly annexed areas
o Legislative advocacy

General Fund
General Fund revenues have been projected at $81.8 million and operating transfers in at $6.8 million. Expenditures are projected to be $75.1 million and operating transfers out are $19.5 million. Staff is recommending that the Contingency Reserve be increased by $0.9 million to equal 15% of the current recurring expenditures per City Council policy, and that the budget be balanced by using $6.9 million from various reserves.

The proposed budget contains a “structural” deficit between recurring revenues and recurring expenditures of $1 million which represents the difference between the City’s actual PERS obligation for the year versus the City’s obligation calculated under the “level” rate assumption. That deficit has been closed by the use of the PERS Rate Stabilization Reserve, a mechanism that was adopted for just that purpose. However, due to the concern that even larger rate increases will be seen beginning with Fiscal Year 2011/2012, it is recommended that any savings realized as the result of the early retirement incentive program be placed into the PERS Rate Stability Reserve to offset future increases.

The current General Fund revenue budget includes one-time revenues of $4.271 million, as well as the Utility User’s Tax of $4.7 million which expires as of June 30, 2009. When the current revenue budget is adjusted for these two revenues, the proposed budget reflects a decrease in revenues of $2.0 million reflecting a reduction in most major revenue sources including property tax, interest, business tax and development related revenues. Reductions are partially offset by increases to recreation revenues and cost allocation from component units.

The General Fund expenditure budget has decreased from the current fiscal year budget by $2.3 million primarily due to the full year effect of cost saving measures including layoffs and elimination of vacancies.

The General Fund Contingency Reserve has been increased by $0.9 to the policy level based on the proposed budget, with an offsetting decrease to the Reserve for Future Projects and Commitments. The Economic Uncertainty Reserve has been reduced by $1.5 million to fund a portion of the capital reinvestment goal, which will leave it at $6.0 million or 7.5% of recurring revenues. The difference between the actual PERS rate and the City’s “level” rate was approximately $1 million and was funded from the PERS Rate Stability Reserve leaving a balance of $4.8 million.

Other General Funds
Other general funds include City Technology, Facilities Maintenance and Retiree Medical Benefits. They are funded primarily through operating transfers from the General Fund and are maintained separately for accounting purposes only. They are reported as part of the General Fund in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Revenues are projected to remain relatively flat. The reduction in expenditures compared to the current budget is primarily due to cost saving measures and project carryovers.

Special Revenue Funds
Special revenue funds account for specific revenues that are legally restricted to expenditures for particular purposes including Gas Tax, Measure I, Asset Seizure funds, Grants, Landscape and Lighting Maintenance Districts, and Maintenance Community Facilities Districts. Current year budgeted revenues and expenditures exceed the proposed amounts by $14.0 million and $23.3 million, respectively. Current year revenues include one-time allocations to Community Development Block Grant (CDGB) and other grant programs. The reduction in expenditures compared to the current year is primarily due to project carryovers.

Debt Service Funds
The Debt Service Funds are used to accumulate resources for the payment of principal and interest on the 2003 Lease Revenue Bonds (Police Facility) and the 2007 Lease Revenue Bonds (Ventana Land Purchase). The reduction in revenue reflects lower investment interest earnings.

Capital Project Funds
The capital project funds are used to account for the acquisition and construction of major capital facilities. They are funded by various sources including development impact fees and community facilities district special assessment bond proceeds. The Capital Reinvestment Fund is funded by transfers from the General Fund. Activity in these funds varies significantly from year to year as resources are accumulated and then used to fund large capital projects. Revenues are projected to decrease by $7.2 million reflecting a reduction in development activity and fees, and the amount of interest earned on cash balances. Projected expenditures are less than the current year as a result of project carryovers. A few major capital projects being funded in the proposed budget include the police facility expansion, the Duncan Canyon storm drain, and several street projects.

Internal Service Fund
The City’s only internal service fund provides fleet services. The fund accumulates costs related to fleet services which are allocated to the benefiting funds and departments through an internal service charge. The fund balance reflects amounts available for future fleet replacement. Projected revenues remain flat; expenses are reduced through cost saving measures.

Enterprise Funds
The enterprise funds account for the City’s business-type activities, operating and capital funds for sewer and water. In recent years, the water fund has been used to account for expenses related to the water rate case study. The sewer funds account for the operations, maintenance, and construction of the City’s sewer system, as well as the billing and collection of sewer charges. Revenues are projected to remain flat. The reduction in expenses reflects project carryovers.

Housing Authority
The Fontana Housing Authority uses funding from the Fontana Redevelopment Agency’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund as well as the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development program grants to actively improve and develop quality neighborhoods and housing opportunities throughout the City. Revenues reflect a reduction in investment earnings and funding from Redevelopment, resulting in a decrease in expenditures.

Redevelopment Agency
The Fontana Redevelopment Agency uses tax increment derived from the City’s five redevelopment project areas to fund infrastructure projects, to increase and improve the City’s supply of low and moderate income housing, and to pay debt service on outstanding tax allocation bonds. Revenues were projected using a conservative estimate of additional tax increment in three of the five project areas, and no additional tax increment in the remaining two project areas. As a result, projected revenues are slightly lower than in the current year. The reduction in expenditures reflects carryover projects. The proposed budget includes funding for Ceres Court Phase II (28 townhome style apartments), drawings and specifications for the proposed Sports Park, and the conceptual design for Central Park.

Community Foundation
The Fontana Community Foundation was established for the purpose of aiding and assisting in the implementation, improvement and maintenance of public services that preserve and promote the health, welfare and education of local citizens. Current activity in this fund reflects library fundraising efforts.

Fire Protection District
The Fontana Fire Protection District was created effective July 1, 2008, to provide fire suppression, emergency medical, fire prevention and education services within the City limits and unincorporated area within the City’s Sphere of Influence. Revenues to the district include property taxes, fees and special assessments from a Community Facilities District and reflect a projected reduction in assessed valuations. Expenditures reflect a contractual agreement with the County of San Bernardino and City overhead costs.

Capital Improvement Program
The seven-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a companion volume to this document which is a planning tool used to identify the capital improvement needs in a manner that assures the most responsible and efficient use of resources. The proposed capital budget for Fiscal Year 2009/2010 is $29.5 million which represents funding for new projects as well as additional funding for existing projects for all categories of capital improvement across all funds. A total of $4.9 million has been allocated to pavement rehabilitation. Some of the other projects include:

o Duncan Canyon storm drain
o Fiber installation on Summit
o I-10 at Citrus Avenue Interchange
o Various street improvements and traffic signal installations
o Ceres Court Apartments Phase III
o Furniture and fixtures for new Senior Center

Challenges Ahead
The City of Fontana has enjoyed many years of increasing resources and opportunities. However, potential challenges in the coming years include the state of the economy, the possibility of county-wide property value reassessments, the loss of the Utility Users’ Tax, sales tax concentration in the Auto and Transportation Sales sector, increasing employee retirement costs, investment losses, cancellation of Animal Control contract with the City of San Bernardino, and the potential for State take aways.

With the current economic downturn, particularly in the housing market, the City now finds itself facing shrinking revenue sources and increasing costs. In prior years, the City Council has adopted prudent fiscal policies such as funding reserves and limiting recurring expenditures to recurring revenues. Because of this, the City should be in a position to weather the economic storm.

Property Value Reassessments
Proposition 8 (1979) allows a temporary reduction in assessed value when a property suffers a decline in value (when the current market value of property on January 1 is less than the Proposition 13 based taxable value). For the 2009/10 annual roll, the San Bernardino County Assessor’s Office is reviewing approximately 235,000 single-family residences and condominiums County wide. Any home or condominium acquired after January 1, 2001, and all property that was reduced under this provision last year will automatically be reviewed and the assessed valuation reduced where necessary. There has been no information provided by the County to project the potential loss in revenue to the City and the Redevelopment Agency. However, the Property Tax in Lieu tax revenue has been projected assuming a 2.5% loss in City-wide assessed valuation for Fiscal Year 2009/2010.

Loss of Utility User’s Tax
The remaining non-residential portion of the City’s Utility User’s Tax will expire on June 30, 2009. Although the City has not depended on this revenue, valued at approximately $4.7 million per year, for recurring operational costs for some time, it has been a source of funding for vital street improvement projects.

Sales Tax Concentration
Approximately 21% of the City’s sales tax revenue for 2008 was generated from Autos and Transportation Sales, compared to 15% statewide. This over concentration in auto sales has been decreasing over the past several years, down from 35% (21% statewide) in 2003, and will continue to decrease as new retail establishments continue to develop in the City.

CalPERS Investment Losses
Investment losses sustained by CalPERS since June 30, 2008 are estimated at 25% and will cause an increase in employer rates beginning in Fiscal Year 2011/2012. CalPERS is considering a number of approaches to mitigate some of the impact of this unique and catastrophic event. Several years ago, the City Council approved a PERS Stability Reserve to help smooth out rate spikes and $1 million of that reserve has been used to balance the FY 2009/2010 Operating Budget.

Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank on Wall Street, filed for Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy protection. The City currently owns Lehman Brothers Corporate Notes in its investment portfolio purchased at a total cost of $10,118,800. As a result of the bankruptcy filing, this security is currently trading at 13-14 cents on the dollar and has a market value of approximately $1.4 million. The current estimates for recoveries through the bankruptcy proceedings are from 20-60 cents on the dollar. Based on the estimated level of recoveries, the loss to the City would be somewhere between $4 and $8 million. The total impact to the City may not be known for years. A group of cities and counties are attempting to acquire Federal bailout money to cover the losses. The City of Fontana has set aside $850,000 to cover a portion of the loss allocable to the General Fund. The proposed budget does not include investment interest revenue projections in most funds in anticipation of the loss that will have to be recorded if efforts to recover the funds are unsuccessful.

Animal Control
In 2007, the City entered into a three-year agreement with the City of San Bernardino to provide animal control services for approximately $650,000 per year. In April of 2009, the City of Fontana was informed that the City of San Bernardino would no longer be providing these services. A search for an alternate provider has resulted in only one willing vendor at a cost of $2 million per year. Alternatives to provide these critical services to the Fontana community continue to be examined.

State Budget Deficit
The Department of Finance (DOF) May Revision projects spending this year and next will exceed available funds by $15 billion in the absence of any corrective action, assuming passage of Propositions 1A through 1E on the May 19 ballot. That number rises to $21 billion if the propositions fail.

If Propositions 1A through 1E fail, the contingency proposal includes borrowing from Local Government. The contingency plan proposes to borrow eight percent of the property tax revenues received by cities, counties, and special districts in 2008/09 as authorized in Article XIII of Section 25.5 of the Constitution. Repayment must be made within the next three years. Legislation also is proposed to create a joint powers authority to allow local agencies to borrow against the state repayment as a group. Eight percent of the property tax revenues received by the City of Fontana in 2008/09 is estimated to be approximately $2 million. If the contingency plan is enacted, staff would recommend that this one-time “loan” be taken from the Economic Uncertainty Reserve which was established for this purpose.

Experience Fontana
Some of the projects completed during the prior year include:

Over 30,000 people attended the grand opening of Fontana Park on October 25, 2008. This $60 million project encompasses the 43,000 square foot Jessie Turner Health & Fitness Center, the City’s first aquatics center, the City’s first dog park, a supervised 25,000 square foot skate and BMX park, and a creative park that encourages children to use their imaginations as they play.

The City Hall remodel was completed allowing several moves to take place. The Administrative Services Organization staff relocated to City Hall and the Finance staff shifted into the core of the building providing them with much needed space. The former Economic Development building became the new home of Human Resources and the Police Department reclaimed the portion of their building vacated by Human Resources.

July 25, 2008, marked the first performance for the Center Stage Theater located just south of the Lewis Library and Technology Center. The theater was originally designed by famed architect CH Boller in 1937, and has been used as a movie theater, Elks Lodge, tea shop and stationary store. In 2004, the City purchased the building and began a $6 million expansion and renovation. The City has contracted with a professional production company, Stargazer Productions, to provide performances from Tibbies, a cabaret troupe based in Long Beach. The first performance was Best of Broadway, and similar performances including cabarets and specialty shows will grace the stage throughout the year. Performances include a full course meal. The theater is also a unique venue for corporate events, weddings, receptions and parties.

Fernandez Park, located at the northwest corner of Miller and Locust Avenues, is complete with a grand opening scheduled for June 26, 2009. The park includes playground structures, a picnic shelter structure, a meandering sidewalk, open space for recreational play, a 27 stall parking lot, and a small pre-cast concrete restroom facility for men and women. The land was donated by the family of Benjamin Fernandez and construction was partially funded by a grant from Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales.

The City Council Chambers have been remodeled to include larger viewing monitors, new cameras for improved viewing angles, and speakers for enhanced audio quality, and new wiring and cabling. City meetings are scheduled to resume in the City Council Chambers at the end of June 2009.

Segment 2 of the Pacific Electric Trail was completed from Juniper Avenue west to Tokay Avenue. When all segments are completed, the trail will join with similar ongoing Pacific Electric Trail projects in the communities of Montclair, Claremont, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, and Rialto.

The San Bernardino Trunk Sewer Project was completed in April 2009. This project included the construction of approximately 19,600 linear feet of sanitary sewer main from Cypress Avenue to Mulberry Avenue and will eventually tie into a regional pump station and force main that will be operated by the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. This system will divert existing sewer flows from Regional Plan No. 1 to Regional Plant No. 4, which will provide an increase in opportunities for recycled water. In addition, it will increase opportunities for future annexations from the County area.

The Operating Budget, as proposed, seeks to maintain a stable, financial environment for the City of Fontana. The conservative decisions made in this budget process continue to emphasize the City Council's Goals and Objectives.

City Council’s Mission Statement
Fontana is a dynamic, thriving community that supports education, growth, safety and a positive community fabric. Our community is creating the opportunities that encourage social and economic investment. Adopted February 7, 2006.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor and City Council for your direction and input toward the preparation of the proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2009/2010. I would also like to thank the staff members and community partners who have taken the time to participate in this very important process. With this support, the City has been able to continue to make significant strides toward securing our financial stability for the future.