Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Managing the City’s Debt

I have decided to use today’s blog to give a general overview regarding the management of the City of Fontana’s long-term debt. This is not intended to be a technical accounting discussion, but rather an overview regarding the long-term implications of the existing debt to the community.

At the risk of oversimplifying, two broad categories of debt will be discussed within this blog: Bonded Debt and Developer Debt.

Bonded Debt (about $600 million) is fully amortized debt, meaning that it will be completely paid off during the term of the bonds. This type of debt is similar to a house mortgage. Money is borrowed, an interest rate is assessed based upon market conditions and the strength of the credit and there is a schedule of payments that will completely pay off the debt over time, usually 30 years.

Most of the bonded debt is issued by the Fontana Redevelopment Agency (RDA) (about $400 million) or by Community Facilities Districts (CFD) (about $145 million). Debt issued by the RDA is repaid from property tax revenues collected by the RDA. These are not new taxes, higher taxes, or additional assessments; the funding for this debt comes from the basic property tax that all property owners pay.

CFD Debt is repaid from assessments made against property. This obligation can only be created through a vote of the property owners which often takes place during the construction of new developments. Individuals who buy into developments with bonded CFDs must be notified of the added assessments prior to purchasing the property. The current City Council’s policy regarding bonded CFDs is that they will not approve the creation of new CFDs unless there is a significant community benefit that can be identified. The existing CFD debt for Hunters Ridge and Walnut Village will be fully paid off in 2015. The Village of Heritage bonded CFD will be retired in 2017. When these bonds are fully paid, the collection of assessments from the property owners will also cease.

Both RDA and CFD bonded debt is typically issued to pay for the cost of construction of regional back-bone infrastructure. This infrastructure typically includes roads, sewer and storm drain construction. Another significant safeguard for such debt is that the debt is an obligation of the RDA and/or the CFD. It is not a debt of the city nor is it backed by the general fund. Should a default occur on such debt, the recourse of the bond holder is only against the assets of the RDA or CFD. Each RDA project area and CFD is a separate legal entity so the debt does not have recourse against other residents within the City of Fontana, even under a default.

All of the current RDA and CFD bonded debt obligations are in the black, meaning that there is sufficient revenue being generated within those districts to pay for both the principal and interest payments as they become due. When feasible, the RDA and CFD debt is refinanced to take advantage of lower interest rates. When such refinancing takes place, the term of the debt is not extended and any savings that results from the CFD refinancing is usually passed on to the property owners in the CFD district. Many property owners in the City who live in CFD districts have benefitted from such a restructured refinancing in the past.

A look at revenues and expenditures in the Fontana Redevelopment Agency shows annual revenues of about $100 million and total bonded debt service of $32 million. The surplus of revenues over expenditures in RDA is used for a variety of purposes including low-income housing (required by State law), pass-through financing to other entities such as the fire department and schools, and to pay for capital projects such as roads, sewers, storm drains, parks, libraries, economic development, and administration. Many of the new facilities and community improvements constructed over the past few years have, at least in part, been accomplished with contributions from the surplus of RDA revenues over debt service.

Developer Debt (about $200 million) was created to repay a developer for infrastructure they built in connection with the construction of the Southridge Village. In the 1980’s, a developer approached the City Council with a plan to construct a 10,000 unit housing development in South Fontana. As you might imagine, there was a great deal of infrastructure needed to support the proposed development. The City of Fontana did not have the money to build the needed infrastructure for the proposed development. As such, the developer proposed, and the city agreed to a plan that would require the developer to pay for all of the required infrastructure for the project and in exchange, the City would reimburse the developer over time for the cost of the infrastructure from the property tax revenue it received from the Southridge Development through its Redevelopment Area (Jurupa Project Area).

The unusual aspect of this agreement is that the millions of dollars invested by the developer of the Southridge Village accrues interest at a rate of 15 ½ % per year. Admittedly, while this seems to be an excessive interest rate in today’s market, I am told that this was a market based rate of interest at the time the transaction was negotiated, nearly 30 years ago.

Over time, the interest accrued has been adding to the debt since it has and will continue to grow much faster than the RDA’s ability to repay the debt. Therefore, on paper, this debt continues to grow significantly. For example, 15 ½ % on a debt of $200 million is $31 million. Regardless of the growth of the amount owed, however, the obligation to repay the developer does not change. The repayment is limited to the amount of property tax revenue taken in by the Jurupa Project Area of the Fontana Redevelopment Agency. When the Jurupa RDA Project Area goes away in the year 2033, the Fontana RDA will no longer collect taxes for this project and as such, will no longer have an obligation to pay on this debt.

At times there is discussion about the State Controller’s Report that lists Fontana with in excess of $2 billion of debt. This report calculates both principal and interest accrued over time. (For comparison purposes, this would be similar to an individual borrowing $300,000 to buy a house and then being told they owe $1 million when you add up the total of all payments being made over time.) The growth of the developer debt over time is primarily responsible for the numbers included in this report. Regardless of whether this developer debt grows to $2 billion or $20 billion, the obligation to pay on this debt remains unchanged. Categorizing this debt as a burden to future generations of Fontana residents is a misstatement of the facts generated from a lack of understanding of the nature of this debt.

Final Thoughts. The City of Fontana, like any City is focusing on the need to encourage economic development and to create jobs for the community. The basic building block for economic expansion is the construction of City infrastructure. The issuance of debt, when well managed, is a critical component to the completion of such infrastructure.

The City of Fontana’s debt is being well managed and represents a significant investment within our community. The City will continue to management its debt and has not nor will not create an environment that saddles the future residents with debt. This is the philosophy of this City Council and I am confident that it will continue to be the philosophy of future City Council’s as well.

If you would like additional information about the City’s debt structure or would like to examine the issues in more detail, please feel free to contact our Management Services Department at (909) 350-7671 to schedule an appointment. The financial records of Fontana are available to everyone and I am sure that staff would be happy to address whatever additional questions you may have.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

School Traffic

I received this question from a community member regarding traffic around schools.

Having attended community meetings throughout the city, a common problem is traffic around schools during drop off and pick up. What efforts does the city take to control the action of dangerous drivers at his peak times?

Historically, vehicle and pedestrian traffic around school zones is a challenge during the morning and afternoon peak hours. There are approximately 54 schools within the City’s limits. We have been very fortunate in recent years to work directly and closely with the school districts in the planning phases of the schools to accommodate as much traffic on site as practical.

The City of Fontana traffic engineering staff performs a site review of each school and implements a signing and striping plan which is consistent with the California Manual of Traffic Control Devices, specific to school zones. These zones use a variety of warning and regulatory signing as well as advance pavement markings for the motorist. As part of that review pedestrian traffic is also monitored to determine if adult school crossing guards and/or marked school crosswalks are needed. After implementation, our traffic enforcement unit patrols each school zone for compliance. This enforcement is rotational, based on resources. We also find it to be very helpful to meet with the school resource officers to discuss and coordinate specific sites on a monthly basis. This practice is particularly helpful with some of the older school sites which may have limited on-site access.

We are always available and welcome resident input if you see something particular or out of the ordinary around a specific school. Please contact our traffic engineering section at (909) 350-6600.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LMD and CFD Rates

LMD and CFD Rates:

At the Southridge meeting a resident was complaining about his CFD.

I at times thought that the fees on landscaping and lighting for the parts of the community are quite costly. (The exception being the middle of town that pay none of the district fees). My question is can you perhaps share an example of the cost break down how these revenues are dispersed?

Community Facilities Districts (CFD), Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMD’s) and Landscape Lighting Maintenance Districts (LLMD’s) are put in place as a way to collect revenue to pay for city services associated with development. These revenues are collected through an assessment that is added to the County’s yearly property tax bills issued to property owners. That revenue is then used to pay for services such as park and landscape maintenance services and street lighting within the established boundaries of that particular neighborhood. CFD #1, or Southridge as it is known to most people, is unique in that this yearly assessment also pays for Police and Fire services. The breakdown of the yearly assessment is as follows:

46% - Park and Landscape maintenance services and utility costs
30% - Police services
18% - Fire services
6% - Administrative fees and cost allocation.

The assessment for services mentioned above will occur yearly for as long as the CFD, LMD or LLMD is in place. Some CFD’s may also have an additional assessment in place to pay off infrastructure bond debt incurred by the developer that built the neighborhood. This bond debt assessment goes away once the bonds have been paid off, which is usually after 30 years.

At their July 28th regular meeting, Fontana’s City Council recently approved the levying of these assessments for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. What is notable about this action is that the assessments for this fiscal year do not include any increases. The Council’s direction to City staff has always been to keep the costs for services in our CFD, LMD and LLMD areas low and as stable as possible. One of the ways this has been accomplished is through the restructuring of the City’s landscape maintenance contracts.

Ten years ago the City had 6 contractors performing park and landscape related maintenance services throughout the City. These contractors were all working under separate contracts and specifications. In 2004 the City’s Public Works Department combined the maintenance specifications for these services into one contract with three distinct service areas. This new contract was put out to bid and resulted in lower costs to the City due to decreased operational costs for the contractors. The contract also became easier for staff to manage due to only having to oversee 3 contractors rather then 6. In 2009 another change was made to include all irrigation system repair charges in the yearly contract price rather then billable as an extra charge as they previously had been. This again resulted in lower costs overall.
Some costs, such as the price of the water and electricity that are used in these areas, will always be difficult to control. Under direction of the City Council, staff will continue to look for innovative ways to keep our CFD, LMD and LLMD fees as low as possible for our residents.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Commonly Asked Questions - Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan

The City of Fontana has undertaken a process to update the Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan. This planning area, generally located south of the 10 Freeway and North of Jurupa, needs to be updated to reflect current development issues in the area. A number of community meetings have been held to discuss the planned update.

Additionally, the City of Fontana is looking into the possibility of annexing a county area called the Almond Avenue Annexation Area. This proposed area is generally bordered by the 10 Freeway to the north, Mulberry Avenue to the west, and Almond Avenue to the east.

Following is a list of common questions and answers that have been addressed with the community.

Question No. 1: Why is the City updating the Southwest Industrial Park (SWIP) Specific Plan?
Answer: The SWIP Specific Plan was adopted in 1982 and does not reflect the goals of the City Council for this industrial area.

Question No. 2: How does the SWIP Specific Plan update benefit me as a property owner?
Answer: The new Specific Plan should attract new businesses that will improve the roads and sidewalks in the area.

Question No. 3: My business was approved in the County. Can I keep this business?
Answer: All legally approved businesses once annexed to the City may continue unless the use is abandoned.

Question No. 4: My neighbor’s property has code violations. Can the City help me?
Answer: Yes. The Code Compliance Division will investigate any complaint. Complaints can be filed anonymously, but if you leave your name and number, we can keep you informed of the status. All information is confidential.

Question No. 5: How can I get information about the new SWIP Specific Plan?
Answer: Information on the Specific Plan can be found on line at the following link: www.fontana.org/index.aspx?NID=1092.
Or, you may contact the SWIP Team as follows:

Craig Bruorton, Principal Planner, at cbruorton@fontana.org
Dina Lomeli, Planning Technician, at dlomeli@fontana.org
Shawnika E. Johnson, Assistant Planner, at sejohnson@fontana.org
Cecilia López- Henderson, Annexation Program Coordinator, at chenderson@fontana.org

Question No. 6: Why didn’t the Specific Plan extend east of Citrus Avenue?
Answer: A public policy by the City Council has been discussed and the City Council has decided that the area east of Citrus Avenue is residentially zoned land and should not be in an industrial specific plan.

Question No. 7: Have there been any meetings about the SWIP Specific Plan update?
Answer: Yes. Staff has had several meetings about the environmental impacts and informational meetings concerning the proposed land use concept and permitted uses. All property owners were notified of each meeting.

Question No. 8: Who can I contact to stay updated about the SWIP Specific Plan update, including meetings?
Answer: The City has established a hotline to take your questions. The hotline number is (909) 422-3408. All questions on the hotline are answered by staff.

Question No. 9: What does “annexation” mean?
Answer: Annexation means that your neighborhood would be placed in the City’s limits, and your service provider for land use services, sheriff protection and other services that the County provides would change. If annexed, these services will come from the City.

Question No. 10: Will my taxes increase following annexation?
Answer: No. Property owners in the City pay the same rate of property taxes that property owners pay in the County area. You will see no increase in your property taxes after annexation.

Question No. 11: Will I be able to vote on annexation?
Answer: If an election is necessary, all registered voters in the annexation area will be eligible to vote. The election results will determine whether the area becomes part of the City.

Question No. 12: Who can I contact for more information about the proposed Almond Avenue Annexation?
Answer: An annexation hotline is available to take your questions. The hotline number is (909) 422-3405. All questions on the hotline are answered by staff. Or, you can contact Cecilia López- Henderson, Annexation Program Coordinator, at chenderson@fontana.org . Information on the benefits of annexation can be found online at www.fontana.org/index.aspx?NID=846.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

City Manager 10/11 Budget Transmittal to the City Council

Each year the City Council considers a budget that allocates resources toward the accomplishments of community goals. On June 14, 2010, the City Council approved the budget for 2010/2011, which starts in July 2010. Following is 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 2010/2011 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 residents and business community of Fontana.

The State continues the struggle to close their increasing budget deficit. The Governor’s Proposed Budget released in January of this year identified a FY 2010-11 budget gap of $19.9 billion, more than one-fifth of the State’s General Fund. The Governor’s May Revise shows a budget deficit of $19.1 billion, comprised of a current year shortfall of $7.7 billion, a budget year shortfall of $10.2 billion, and a modest reserve of $1.2 billion. The January budget proposed $18.5 billion of budget solutions, nearly half of which will not materialize due to delays in adoption, less than expected federal funding, and determination that some are not feasible. To close the current gap of $19.1 billion, the Governor is proposing $12.4 billion in spending cuts, $3.4 billion in Federal funding, and $3.3 billion in other measures. No new taxes are proposed and scheduled business tax cuts are not repealed. No additional shifts or borrowing from local governments are proposed. The Governor stated he will not sign a budget unless it includes budget, tax and pension reform. Be prepared for a prolonged budget stalemate which will leave the State in financial limbo all summer.

General Fund Budget

The proposed budget was developed using conservative yet realistic revenue projections. It reflects declines in the estimates of many of the City’s major General Fund revenue sources from the amounts adopted for FY 2009-10, but is very similar to the adjusted FY 2009-10 estimated revenue amounts when one-time adjustments are eliminated. The only major recurring revenue source reduced from the adjusted FY 2009-10 estimates is Property Tax In Lieu of VLF which has been reduced by $350,000 to reflect an estimated decrease of 2.5% in city-wide assessed valuations.

The Fiscal Year 2010-11 Operating Budget projects an overall General Fund revenue reduction of 3.5% from the FY 2009-10 adopted budget, and 1.24% from the current year adjusted budget. The recommended General Fund expenditure budget reflects a reduction of 2.87% from the FY 2009-10 adopted budget, and 0.94% reduction from the current year adjusted budget.

In anticipation of a slow economic recovery, a number of cost-saving measures adopted by the City Council during the current fiscal year will be carried forward into the new year. These measures include the elimination of vacant positions, early retirements and across-the-board departmental expenditure reductions. Additional reduction measures included in the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget include:

■ Elimination of cost of living adjustments (COLAs) as employee bargaining groups voted to forego or defer such increases, or extend their current contracts without increases;
■ Reduction of annual leave cash out estimates to reflect historical use; and
■ Reduction of workers compensation funding to the self insurance fund to more closely match historical expenditures.

In order to maintain $5 million of funding of annual pavement rehabilitation costs which are so critical to the community, the budget includes funding of $1.3 million from the General Fund and proposes the continued shift of another $4.0 million to other funds including Solid Waste Mitigation, Gas Tax (Proposition 42 replacement funds), and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

Due to the prudent fiscal policy direction of the Mayor and City Council, the City of Fontana is positioned to endure the current economic conditions better than most. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget maintains critical public safety services, quality of life services including recreational programs and graffiti removal, and the 15% contingency reserve.

City-Wide Budget

Revenues for all entities city-wide have been estimated at $270.9 million, with expenditures projected at $264.8 million.
Other General Funds include City Technology, Facilities Maintenance, Self Insurance and Retiree Medical Benefits and are funded primarily through operating transfers from the General Fund. They are maintained separately for accounting purposes only and are reported as part of the General Fund in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The reduction in revenues reflects the $1 million reduction in Workers Compensation funding to the Self Insurance Fund (General Fund reduction measure) to more closely match historical expenditures. Higher expenditures in the current year adjusted budget are due to one-time claim payments from the Self Insurance Fund.

Special Revenue Funds account for specific revenues legally restricted to expenditures for particular purposes such as 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 $11.6 million and $11.2 million, respectively. Current year revenues include one-time allocations to Community Development Block Grant (CDGB) and other programs. The reduction in expenditures results from one-time projects from accumulated funds in the current year.
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). Both revenues and expenditures are approximately the same as the current year adjusted budget.

Capital Project Funds are used to account for the acquisition and construction of major capital facilities and 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 $11.2 million reflecting a reduction in development activity and one-time funding. Projected expenditures are less than the current year which includes one-time projects from funds accumulated over time.

The City’s only Internal Service Fund is used to accumulate 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 replacements. Revenues remain relatively flat, while expenditures have decreased primarily reflecting a reduction in replacement vehicle purchases as a cost saving measure.

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 billing and collection of sewer charges, and for the operations, maintenance and construction of the City’s sewer system. An increase in the IEUA pass-through rate increases both revenues and expenditures, with the increase to revenues offset by a decrease in one-time revenues.

The Fontana Redevelopment Agency utilizes tax increment received through 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. Tax increment revenues were projected at the same level as the current year.

The Agency was required to shift $33.5 million for FY 2009-10 to the Supplemental Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (SERAF) after the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) received an adverse ruling on their lawsuit opposing the raid by the State. The Agency will be required to shift an additional $6.9 million for FY 2010-11. State-wide, the two-year shift is a devastating $2.05 billion. A November 2010 ballot measure, the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010, includes additional constitutional protections to prevent the state from making future redevelopment raids.

Because of the additional $6.9 million SERAF shift due in FY 2010-11, the uncertainty of a reduction in FY 2010-11 assessed valuations, and the $23 million owed to the Low/Mod Income Housing Fund for the current and previous raids, the Agency is effectively shut down for the next five years deferring projects such as the Duncan Canyon Interchange, the Downtown Façade Program Phase III, and possibly Fire Station 71. Assessed valuation growth and voter approval of the ballot measure in November 2010 would have a positive effect on this forecast.

The Fiscal Year 2010-11 budget includes funding for environmental work, design and property acquisition for Central Park and Sierra Avenue design (Sierra Corridor Project Area) and two Low and Moderate Income Housing projects, Juniper Family Housing Phase II and Toscana Apartments project.

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 have been reduced from the current year adjusted amount to reflect continuing reductions in assessed valuations city-wide. Expenditures reflect a contractual agreement with the County of San Bernardino and City overhead costs.

The Housing Authority utilizes funding from the Fontana Redevelopment Agency’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund as well as Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants to improve and develop quality neighborhoods and housing opportunities throughout the City. Revenue reductions reflect uncertainty regarding RDA funding due to State takeaways which results in expenditure reductions.

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.
Capital Improvement Program

The seven-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a companion volume to this document. A planning tool, the CIP identifies the capital improvement needs in a manner that assures the most responsible and efficient use of resources. The proposed capital budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11 is $23.2 million which represents funding for new and ongoing projects. Again, any funding identified from Redevelopment sources will be revisited when the new assessed valuations are received from the County in early August. Some of the projects include:

■ Pavement rehabilitation – funds $5.3 million from various funds for street overlay and rehabilitation, and construction of new and replacement sidewalks, curbs and gutters

■ Pacific Electric Trail Segments 3B and 4 – funds $400,000 from AQMD and Landscape Improvement funds to be combined with the $2.345 million Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant for the last two segments of the Pacific Electric Trail from Almeria to Cherry

■ Central Park – funds $850,000 from Sierra Corridor Capital Project Fund for Environmental Impact Report (EIR), design and additional property acquisition

■ Foothill median from Sierra to Mango – funds $96,000 from Landscape Improvements funds to be combined with $858,000 Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program grant funding to install a raised median, including pavement rehabilitation and traffic signal modification

■ Miller Park Amphitheatre – funds $325,000 from CDBG for design

■ Sierra Avenue from Foothill to Baseline (design only) – funds $200,000 from Sierra Corridor Capital Project Fund for preparation of “shelf ready” plans for ultimate width allowing for three lanes of travel in each direction including storm drain system

■ Traffic signals – funds $1.5 million from Measure I for three new traffic signals at Merrill & Palmetto, San Bernardino & Juniper, and San Bernardino & Palmetto

■ Juniper Family Housing Phase II – funds $6.3 million from Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund for gap loan pursuant to Developer Disposition Agreement (DDA)

■ Toscano Apartments project – funds $4.9 million from Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund for gap loan for this 71-unit affordable family-oriented multi-family apartment community and learning center

City Council Priorities from Goal Setting Meeting

As a result of the January 8, 2010 goal setting meeting, the City Council identified a number of budget priorities. The following identifies each priority and its status:

Downtown Façade Phase III
With Phase III of the Downtown Façade Renovation Program, the City Council will complete a multi-phase, multi-year commitment to improving the aesthetic of the downtown business district. Construction is currently on hold as there is not sufficient funding in the Downtown Redevelopment Project Area.

Recycled / Reclaimed / Storm Water
Staff is developing an action plan that will explore opportunities to stabilize water rates and maximize the potential use of recycled water for direct re-use and recharge applications. Staff will work with all three water companies that serve the city to identify all water sources available and compare this to the City’s need for water at ultimate build out.

Expanding Redevelopment Areas along Valley Blvd
This project would determine the viability of either expanding an existing redevelopment area along the Valley Boulevard Corridor or creating a new one. Either strategy would ensure that more money is invested into the Corridor’s infrastructure to promote economic growth and long-term competitive viability in the region.

Animal Control Joint Powers Authority (JPA)
Fontana currently has a contract with the City of San Bernardino to provide sheltering services until July 2011. The police department is actively working with the City of San Bernardino and other neighboring cities to establish a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to provide an animal shelter. In March of 2010 the City of San Bernardino retained a management firm for this purpose and members of the Fontana Police Department have already met with them. In addition to Fontana, the management firm will speak to several neighboring municipalities about the possibility of being a part of the JPA. Staff is confident that the City of Fontana will be a partner in a JPA for animal sheltering before July 2011.

Duncan Canyon Interchange
This I-15 interchange is necessary to accommodate the projected growth of residential, commercial and industrial traffic in north Fontana including the Arboretum Specific Plan and Corporate Corridor. The construction will create approximately 1,000 jobs, and the access off the freeway created by the interchange will stimulate development and therefore the economy. The project has an approved environmental document and is currently in the final design and right-of-way phase. It is anticipated that the project will be ready for construction by the end of calendar year 2010. Construction funding will probably not be available for at least five years due to the SERAF payments required by the State and the possible reduction in assessed valuations for FY 2010-11.

Pacific Electric Trail completion
The FY 2010-11 budget includes $400,000 from AQMD and Landscape Improvement funds as a portion of the match for $2.35 million Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds grant awarded by SANBAG in April 2010 to complete the last two segments of the Pacific Electric Trail. It is anticipated that another $1 million may be required to complete the project.

Compass Grant for Sierra/Valley
This proposal would seek grant funding from SCAG to study this important intersection for eventual re-use, rehabilitation and public and private reinvestment, to promote new economic development and a more attractive gateway to the community.

Chaffey College Phase IV
Chaffey College is planning to expand their current extension center into a full-service community college campus with most if not all of the classes offered at both the main Rancho Cucamonga Campus and the satellite Chino Campus. Economic Development is working with Chaffey to identify the required land and a potential funding source; will assist in identifying any potential off-site facilities such as Culinary Academy and Nursing Programs with Kaiser; and will assist in completing the required application for funding of the construction through the State of California.

Central Park
The Central Park project area is adjacent to the Pacific Electric Trail and Cypress Community Center in the core of the Community. The FY 2010-11 budget includes funding for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), design and additional property acquisition.

Prototype Middle Schools
Staff plans to work with Fontana Unified School District to create a model middle school campus that offers after-school enrichment opportunities for not only students but also to benefit the community as a whole. Almeria Middle School has been selected for this project because a Boys and Girls Club already exists at the site.

Valley Boulevard Specific Plan
This project would create a Specific Plan for the Valley Boulevard Corridor to help the area update uses, modernize development standards, and transition newly annexed areas to City standards successfully to lay the groundwork for future development to build on the Corridor’s viability as a regional economic engine.

Even with the struggling economy and resulting budget constraints, the City of Fontana saw a number of significant events during this past year.

Significant Events of FY 2009-10

■ Hilton Gardens Inn grand opening
■ Fernandez Park grand opening
■ Shops at Sierra Lakes opened
■ Jurupa Avenue widening
■ New city website unveiled
■ KFON moved into a new studio
■ Fontana Community Senior Center grand opening
■ Automated agenda management system implemented
■ City-wide outreach efforts in support of the 2010 Census
■ Grand opening of Plaza at Sierra, Senior Housing Phase IV
■ Assumed enforcement and licensing aspect of animal control
■ License Plate Scanner system implemented on one police vehicle
■ Completed construction of Pacific Electric Trail Segment 3A from Tokay Avenue to Almeria Avenue
■ Established an emergency operations backup site for the City’s financial system in case of disaster
■ Rolled out the City Manager Blog posting 25 articles to improve communication with the community
■ Completed Downtown Façade Phase II, east side of Sierra Avenue from Valencia Avenue to Arrow Boulevard
■ Reverse 911 Broadcast calling system to notify citizens of an emergency situation in their neighborhoods implemented
■ Partnered with the Auto Club Speedway to host the July 4th Celebration with more than 15,000 people in attendance including 9,000 Fontana residents
■ Fontana Aquatics Center, in partnership with the Fontana Aquatics Club (Sea Horses), hosted its first ever US Regional Swim Meet with more than 500 swimmers and 2,500 spectators

While new funding for the coming year is limited due to budget constraints and the uncertainty of potential State actions, a number of projects that were funded in prior years will be completed in Fiscal Year 2010-11.

What to Look for in FY 2010-11

■ Cypress I-10 Overcrossing
■ Police Department building expansion (1)
■ City Hall parking lot reconstruction (1)
■ Fire Station 71 construction / renovation (1)
■ Pacific Electric Trail Segments 3b and 4
■ Pacific Electric Trail Segments 5b and 6
■ San Bernardino Avenue Phase I reconstruction
■ Auto Mall loop road
■ Ceres Way Apartments project groundbreaking
■ Paseo Verde Apartments groundbreaking
■ New traffic signals at:
o Merrill & Palmetto
o San Bernardino & Juniper
o San Bernardino & Palmetto

(1)These projects could be delayed depending on outcome of California Redevelopment Association (CRA) pending appeal against State SERAF shift.

Challenges Ahead

While the City of Fontana is positioned to ride out the current economic storm and take advantage of the slow recovery, a number of challenges remain on the horizon.

State Budget Deficit
First and foremost, fiscal problems at the State level continue to hang over the City like a dark cloud. Many funding opportunities must be evaluated as “what if?” scenarios because of the ever-present possibility that the State will once again attempt to solve their problems through the borrowing or taking of local funds. The question seems to be not if, but when and how much. As stated previously, the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget makes no provision for potential State takeaways.

Property Value Reassessments
Proposition 8 allows a temporary reduction in assessed valuation when a property suffers a decline in value. Additionally, for the first time since the enactment of Proposition 13, the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment which provides the basis for changes in assessed valuations state-wide is negative. True economic recovery for the City of Fontana rests on strong and continuing growth of base values.

Investment Losses
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 their bankruptcy filing, this security is currently trading at 23 cents on the dollar and has a market value of approximately $2.3 million. Current estimates for recovery through bankruptcy proceedings are from 20-40 cents on the dollar. Based on the estimated level of recovery, the loss to the City would be somewhere between $6 and $8 million. 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 FY 2010-11 Operating 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.

Unfunded Liability
Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 45 requires public-sector employers to recognize the cost of post-employment benefits over the active service life of their employees rather than on a pay-as-you-go basis. GASB 45 does not require the City to fund this benefit, only to report the liability and the funding progress. The annual required contribution (ARC), an amount actuarially determined in accordance with the parameters of GASB 45, represents a level of funding that, if paid on an ongoing basis, is projected to cover normal cost each year and amortize any unfunded actuarial liabilities over a period not to exceed thirty years. The ARC for the City of Fontana is currently calculated to be $4.1 million per year. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget includes funding of $3.25 million. The City has been steadily increasing the annual funding over the past several years and plans to achieve the $4.1 million annual funding by FY 2012-13.

California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS)
The City makes bi-weekly payments on behalf of its employees to be invested by CalPERS. When CalPERS investments do not achieve their targets, the payments made by cities are increased to achieve the target levels. Conversely, when investment earnings exceed target levels, the payments are reduced. Rates have remained stable for Fiscal Year 2010-11, and are projected to remain stable for FY 2011-12. However, recent investment losses sustained by CalPERS could cause an increase in employer rates although they are considering a number of approaches to mitigate some of the impact. Several years ago, the City Council approved a PERS Rate Stability Reserve to help smooth out rate spikes and $800,000 of that reserve has been used to balance the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget.

Animal Control
In 2007, the City entered into a three-year agreement with the City of San Bernardino for animal control services for $650,000 per year. In April of 2009, the City of San Bernardino notified the City of Fontana that, effective July 1, 2009, they would no longer be providing these services. A portion of the savings achieved through the early retirement incentive program was reprogrammed to fund Animal Control services to be provided by the City. The sheltering contract with the City of San Bernardino expires on June 30, 2011. The police department is actively working on a JPA with the City of San Bernardino and other neighboring cities to provide an animal shelter.

Capital Reinvestment Program
Since 1996/1997, the City Council has been investing a portion of the annual General Fund budget back into the community in the form of capital projects (streets, parks and facilities). While the actual annual investment has varied, the goal has been to reinvest 10% of the total General Fund budget back into the community. Due to budget constraints, the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget contains funding from the Economic Uncertainty Reserve of only $1.3 million or 1.8% of recurring expenditures, short of the City Council’s goal. To supplement that amount, $4.0 million from other funds have been allocated to this critical area.

Proposition 218
On November 5, 1996, the California electorate approved Proposition 218 affecting a change to the California State Constitution by making numerous changes to local government finance law. This measure impacts the generation and use of many fundamental revenue sources including fees, charges, assessments, and taxes. This proposition also changes the methods by which certain assessments and taxes are challenged by the electorate. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget fully complies with the provisions of Proposition 218.

Services and Growth
The City of Fontana has experienced significant growth over the past several years. With this growth comes the need to service a growing community. The funding sources for these additional services are revenue growth and the Municipal Services Fiscal Impact Fee Program (MSFIF).

The Fiscal Year 2010-11 Operating Budget as proposed is fiscally balanced and continues to support services, maintenance, facilities and infrastructure. The budget is comprised of three separate volumes: Operating Budget Summary which provides a high-level overview of activities and programs; Operating Budget Detail which provides detail information at the object code level; and Seven-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) which presents the City’s comprehensive capital spending plan.

I am pleased to report that the City of Fontana has received distinguished budget awards from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) for its Fiscal Year 2009-10 Operating Budget for the seventeenth consecutive year. These awards are presented to cities whose budget documents meet program criteria as a policy document, operations guide, financial plan and communications device.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor and City Council for their outstanding leadership and clear direction in building this budget document, as well as the staff members and community partners who have taken the time to participate in this very important process.

I would also like to thank the employee bargaining groups who all voted to either forgo or defer scheduled wage increases, or to extend expiring contracts without increases, in light of the economic challenges being faced by the City. This speaks to the caliber of employees that we are fortunate enough to have at the City of Fontana.

Respectfully submitted,

Kenneth R. Hunt
City Manager

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Structural Design Can Prevent Crime

Community Member Question:
It has been said that, "Commercial businesses are constructed in a manner that reduces the possibility of crime.” My question is are residential homes designed structurally to prevent crime as well?

City Manager Response:
Excellent Question. The City of Fontana’s planning process for both commercial and residential developments includes a review by our Police Department staff on design issues that may impact crime. Members of the Fontana Police Department staff have been specifically trained in this area and are active participants in the review of all new projects. Many projects are modified based upon the comments they receive from Fontana Police. Recently, the City of Fontana has amended its development code to clarify that such reviews are required or all new developments.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Elected Officials Evaluated Through Public Scrutiny

Community Member Question:
In many jobs a requirement of a background check is necessary. Criminal and financial records are reviewed by employers to determine if the character and responsibility of an employee is a risk factor. Are background checks done on incumbents as they are done on city employees?

City Manager Response:
Thank you for the question. No the City does not conduct background checks on the elected officials for the City. Candidates are vetted through the public election process.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Safe and Sane Fireworks - Community Decision

Community Member Question:
How will the Fireworks policy be enforced if it is voted out? Will the officers give citations to all they can or just addresses that are called in?

City Manager Response:
Thank you for the question.

Each year the Fontana Police Department puts together an action plan regarding enforcement of the laws regarding illegal fireworks. On the Fourth of July and days leading up to it, the Police Department increases enforcement and staffing within the community to deal with the use of illegal fireworks.

Should the use of Safe and Sane fireworks be prohibited by a vote of the community next November, the Police will continue its enforcement activity on the Fourth of July. I have not discussed this issue with the Chief, but I believe the Police would undertake a strong enforcement plan, specifically in the early years of the new measure.

There will be a period of time necessary to educate the community of the change.

The prohibition against the sale of Safe and Sane fireworks will help reduce the use of fireworks in Fontana, but I would anticipate that it will take a few years to fully change the behavior of the residents of Fontana.

In the event the community does not support the ban of Safe and Sane fireworks, we will continue to conduct enforcement activity that targets the use of illegal fireworks. In addition to enforcement, the City will also conduct an educational campaign within Fontana, similar to what they do in Rancho Cucamonga to encourage voluntary compliance with the laws regarding fireworks.

What Does The Future Hold For Property Tax Assessments?

Community Member Question:
Recently I received an adjustment on my property taxes of an adjustment reduction from the previous owner's tax obligation. Reading your blog comments, I'm aware that mine will have a 1.1% increase in the future on a yearly basis on my new purchase.

What can a resident that has bought their home at the high taxation level based on their purchase price and now has a re-adjustment (due to the market) expect to pay in the future as the market improves and with the state taking much of the tax revenues that what would help the city regain the much needed money?

City Manager Response:
It is the job of the County Assessor to evaluate the valuation of properties and to assess those properties for property tax purposes. In down markets, the assessor can decrease the assessed value of a property. Last year, across the entire County of San Bernardino, assessed values decreased by a net of 5%. Obviously, those homes that were newly purchased received a larger reassessment and older homes may have not have been adjusted at all. I have been told that next year, the County is expecting an additional net decrease of 6%.

In up markets, assessed valuations can only be increased by 2% per year, regardless of how high property values have increased. There is also a catch up provision that allows for properties that received a lowered assessment in prior years to have their assessed value increased by more than the basic 2% if it is determined to be appropriate by the Assessor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fontana Makes Strides to Support Job Growth

Community Member Question:
The City seems to be controlling much of its challenges, such as foreclosed homes, balancing the budget and moving forward on many infrastructure projects. The challenge of job growth is perhaps the most difficult. My question is, what incentives are being given or steps being taken to create job growth?

City Manager Response:
The loss of jobs has impacted Fontana and the Inland Empire tremendously over the past two years. San Bernardino County currently stands at 14.8% unemployment rate and the prediction is things aren’t going to turn around quickly. With that in mind, your question is a good one and one that has a multi-faceted answer.

This past week I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. John Husing, the Inland Empire’s leading economist, about job growth in the Inland Empire. Dr. Husing takes an interesting approach as it relates to jobs. He looks at job generation not from a local city perspective, but rather from an area perspective, since no one city alone can turn the tide on job availability.

The key for Fontana and our IE neighbors is to become more attractive for businesses and developers. We can influence this attractiveness by addressing the areas developers take into consideration when deciding where to expand or plant new roots, including streamlining the development process, having an available workforce with the qualities they desire, and providing a good quality of life that enhances what the business can offer their employees.

Streamlining Development Process
The two most important issues to developers are time and certainty. They want to work with communities that can work side by side with them through the entire development process, remove unnecessary red tape, and provide clear feedback on the rules to build in that community.

Fontana staff work very closely with developers to get things done in a timely manner. We bring all of the players to the table early in the process so that a business owner understands that we care about their success and through clear communication, work towards not having any surprises come up through the process.

The Mayor and City Council have continued to provide strong leadership and are dedicated to providing business owners and developers with the best foundation in order to start out on a positive path.

Availability of Workforce
The demographic makeup of the Inland Empire, specifically the average level of education of our workforce, makes this area most appealing to blue collar job based businesses. Unfortunately, the turndown in the economy has significantly impacted the blue collar industry, such as construction and logistics, and little to no new business is being generated. The City of Fontana has established zoning that allows for such job development, which is the first step in making us appealing to those businesses. In addition to the zoning, the city is working diligently to improve infrastructure (roads, etc.) and has looked at incentives such as economic zones with reduced development fees to encourage businesses to choose Fontana as the best location to open up shop.

In the longer term, the City of Fontana has partnered with local education institutions to expand educational services in the area with a goal of improving our workforce demographics. Through a partnership with the City, Chaffey College in Fontana will soon be four times its size and offer many more instructional opportunities. The City of Fontana has also partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to conduct job development training, job fairs, and job recruitments – again with a goal of enhancing our workforce and becoming more appealing to businesses.

Quality of Living
Businesses are no different than you or I when it comes to selecting places to locate. They are looking for affordable locations with the highest quality of living possible. Many of the amenities that have been created in the City of Fontana not only encourage new residents to move in, they also encourage businesses to locate here. When a new business prospect drives to my office to discuss relocation or expansion plans, they drive through the community and make their own internal assessment about whether or not this is a community they wish to become a part of.

With an eye for the future, the Mayor and City Council have both a strong commitment and vision for jobs in Fontana. This vision has led them to create a planned area for future office space that has been called the corporate corridor. This corridor is sufficient land to allow for the development of office buildings and white collar jobs for the area in the future. This approach is a 15 to 20 year look down the road that is intended to take advantage of the proximity of the airport, the high quality residential development being created in the area, and the community amenities that Fontana and the surrounding Inland Empire offers.

Final Thoughts
The short-term answer to the question of how to create jobs locally is to get construction moving forward again. Dealing with foreclosures, living within our means, and improving transportation and flood control systems are all part of the city’s efforts to keep the wheels under us during this downturn. The Inland Empire’s economy is based on the construction industry and much of the downturn locally has been created by the bottom falling out of the housing market. We are beginning to see some signs of recovery in this area. I am confident that we will continue to see improvement in this area during the next couple of years.

Monday, March 29, 2010

None of the Above

As City Manager of Fontana, I have been afforded the opportunity to be involved in many exciting projects within the City. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been associated with an organization that has accomplished so much during the past eleven years.

The Mayor and City Council have done a wonderful job in creating a vision for this community and then taking the actions needed to turn that vision into a reality.

Some of the projects we have been able to work on that have made a difference within Fontana include the construction of the Lewis Library, the Sierra Interchange, Fontana Park, Heritage Community Center, Jack Bulik Park Renovation, Baseline Avenue, Cypress Overpass, Fontana Aquatics Center, Senior Community Center, Center Stage, Town Square, Sierra Lakes Golf Course, Vets Park Renovation, Almeria Park, Cherry Avenue, Foothill Boulevard, Bill Martin Park Renovation, Fernandez Park, Pacific Electric Trail System, Four Phases of Senior Housing, Jessie Turner Center, Jurupa Avenue, Paramedics, Fontana Fire District, Downtown Façade, Empire Center, Annexations and the soon to be constructed Citrus and Cherry Interchanges. This is just a partial list, but I am sure you get the point.

A staff member recently posed the following question to me: “If I were to leave the City tomorrow, what accomplishment would I highlight as being the most important?” The answer is very easy - none of the above.

It’s the people, it’s the community, and it’s the Fontana family.

Some thoughts on my experiences….

-I recently had occasion to be walking back to City Hall from the Lewis Library at about 9:00 in the evening. I left the Steelworkers’ Auditorium, walking north across the Pacific Electric Trail and saw parents with their kids enjoying the evening in safety, walking the trail system in downtown Fontana.

-I was at an event at Miller Park last summer and watched several hundred socially diverse residents and families enjoying an evening of music and dancing under the stars.

-Last fall, I was at a swim meet at the Fontana Aquatics Center watching better than a thousand kids competing at our facility from all over the State of California and in awe of the community’s facilities.
A month ago I stopped by Jack Bulik Park and listened to parents shout encouragement to their kids competing in roller hockey.

-I talked to a new resident in our new senior housing facility and listened as they broke down in tears because they were so excited about being able to call Fontana their home.

- With the recent economic downturn, I sat in humble awe as employees across this entire City gave up raises and made other concessions voluntarily because they wanted to be part of the solution for the community.

It’s all about Fontana pride and it is a very special place of which to be a part. It is the community of Fontana in which I take most pride.

I wish to thank the Mayor and City Council for their trust in allowing me to be a small part of it all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Keeping the Public's Business Public

Periodically it is said that government needs to run more like the business sector. This statement is normally made in the context of financial or operational issues. While there are many excellent business practices that can and should be incorporated into the running of government, the simple truth of the matter is that government can not operate like a business because of its need to conduct business openly and in public.

Imagine walking into the board meeting of a major corporation such as Coca-Cola or Apple Computer. If you were not an invited participant to the meeting, you would be immediately escorted out of the building because businesses do not operate under the principles of public scrutiny. This is not the case for government, however. Not only is there an expectation of open access in government, but there is also a legal requirement that government must conduct its business in full view of the public and not behind closed doors.

With a few exceptions, the Brown Act requires all actions taken by the governing board of a government organization to take place in public and be documented in a public record that can be viewed and scrutinized by anyone. Those few exceptions that can be dealt with in closed session are personnel issues, property negotiations, and litigation. Even for those exceptions, decisions that result in agreements, contracts and board actions must be disclosed publicly.

Operating in such a fish bowl environment can make the accomplishment of government business both difficult and time consuming. Though admittedly not efficient, this concession of efficiency is necessary to prevent both the perceived and actual influence of political deal making. Governing board members, such as the City Council, are not only precluded from taking action in private, they are also precluded from discussing city issues with a majority of members from their board.

The Fontana Mayor and City Council go to great lengths to live within the confines of the Brown Act. For example, area community meetings, where City issues are discussed, are generally not attended by a majority of members from the City Council. When more than two City Council members show up to these public meetings, all City Council members in attendance refrain from talking about or participating in a presentation of City issues. This can be very frustrating on the part of the elected leadership, but it is the right thing to do to remain compliant with the Brown Act. You may also often see City Council members sitting apart from eachother at luncheons and other events just to avoid the appearance of violation of the Brown Act.

The Brown Act not only prevents business from being conducted in private, it also precludes what are called serial meetings between a majority of the City Council Members. This means that if Councilmember A discusses an issue of city business with Councilmember B, that neither Councilmember A nor Councilmember B can discuss that same topic with any other member on the City Council, unless it takes place during an agendized public meeting.

The Brown Act is specifically designed to preclude political deals from being made behind the scenes, but even more importantly, it allows for the public to participate in the policy discussion before a vote may be taken on an issue.

The Mayor and City Council hold City Council meetings because they are truly interested in the opinions of the members of this community and do not want to come to a consensus decision until after all those interested in speaking on an issue have had the opportunity to be heard. Dissention that leads to an honest and forth right discussion of the issues is a good thing for government because it helps all involved to make well informed policy decisions.

It certainly happens that people may disagree with a decision made by the City Council. As long as both sides of an issue have a fair opportunity to voice their opinions, the process has worked. While you may disagree with the result of the decision made, you should not have disagreement with the process. Open meetings, though not business-like, are important to the success of any government organization and the Brown Act is one of those laws designed to benefit the needs of any community or individual we serve.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Time to Be Counted!

What is the Census?
Every ten years the United States conducts a census to gather statistics about its population. The census is a ten-question form that is mailed to each household and only takes ten minutes to complete.

The Federal Government consolidates this information and makes program and funding decisions based upon the results obtained during this process.

It is critical to the welfare of all Fontana residents that everyone take time to fill out and return the census form.

What if I don’t fill out the form?
Ten’s of millions of dollars for Fontana can be lost if the community is undercounted. This funding will affect our community’s ability to provide public safety, education, and recreational opportunities within the City.

The information gathered during the census process is also invaluable to our economic development activities and assists us in working toward the creation of more jobs for Fontana.

What happens to your information once you fill out the form?
All of the information collected by the census is confidential and is only used to determine funding for your community.

Please keep an eye on your mailboxes and fill out the form when you receive it. The ten minutes you spend in filling out the form will set the stage for OUR community’s success for the next ten years.

We need your help - Stand up and be counted!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elected Officials Must Be Team Players

Community Member Question:

What quality or qualities do you expect from someone considering a council seat?

City Manager Response:

Honesty, Integrity, Courtesy and Common Sense.

This is an excellent question and one worthy of some thought. Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with a number of people who have been elected to office and I have enjoyed my interaction with all of them. I generally find that elected officials all care a great deal about the community they serve and truly desire to do the best job possible. The skills and abilities of these individuals vary greatly based upon their individual backgrounds, but I think there are a few very important qualities that a person should have to be successful in an elected position.

First, be willing to listen respectfully to both sides of an issue before making up your mind. God has given each of us two ears and one mouth for a reason and we are always better off taking the time to listen and learn before we act.

Second, you can accomplish nothing alone. You must be a team player. It takes a majority of the votes of any board to get anything accomplished and you must be willing to spend the time and effort to build a consensus on an issue if you are to have success, even when that means working with people you have had disagreements with in the past. An elected official is too burdened with responsibility to carry around personal grudges.

Third, be responsive and accessible to your constituents. If you can not defend a decision publicly to your constituents it was likely not a good decision.

Fourth, be humble enough to be willing to admit to mistakes and to take what corrective action is necessary to resolve an issue. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes at some point in their life. The biggest mistake of all is not fixing them when they happen.

Fifth, fix windows instead of throwing rocks. It is far more beneficial to the community you serve to fix problems rather than laying blame.

Lastly, be willing to communicate openly and often. In my dealings with elected officials I often remind my staff that it is our job to make sure that there are no secrets or surprises. Be willing to ask the difficult questions even if you think it may be a stupid one. If you have a question then it is very likely others do too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Curb Address Posting

Community Member Question:

Having read the Verified Response Policy and been in various jobs using addresses for many purposes such as calling in graffiti on side walks, emergency response location at home or abroad, I have found they can benefit us more than I realize. I have spoken to residents that have complained to me that their trash can repair wasn't being done. I spoke to a Burrtec driver and asked why, replying "I can not verify they have an open account because the address isn't visible and therefore service was not done.” I have come to realize after speaking with him that repairs on containers are being called in by the collection drivers to prevent the missing lids from allowing water collection to become a contaminant to the storm drain gutter in addition to preventing waste from flying through out the community. He explained that this is how they inform their dispatch of contaminated cans that are being left for notification of correction, to deliver a better service. Does the City provide the service of Address posting on the curb?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for your question. The answer is no, the City does not provide address painting services.

In the City’s Municipal Code, section 5-239 (posted below) and Section 505.1 of the Fire District Code and the Building Code requires addresses to be "internally illuminated", and posted on each new house constructed within the City. For specific details as to the size and location of those address postings, please contact our Department of Building and Safety at 909-350-7640.

Sec. 5-239. - Posting requirement.
Street numbers shall be conspicuously affixed on each building located within the city. If there is more than one building on a lot and only one number is assigned, the number shall be posted on the principal building or the building nearest the street.
(Code 1968, § 8-23)

As far as the replacement of trash cans, here is a brief summary of how the barrel/bin maintenance requests are handled in the City of Fontana:


Burrtec drivers are responsible for noting any maintenance activities that need to be completed on residential trash barrels and commercial bins. The drivers fill out a maintenance log and submit it to the route supervisor; who then reviews the maintenance log and has administrative personnel input the information into a work order system.

City of Fontana:

Staff from the Public Works Department conducts monthly trash route audits to evaluate the condition of barrels and bins. A report is generated and submitted to Burrtec. Burrtec staff then review the reports and compare that information to their current maintenance logs and note any new issues. An updated maintenance log is forwarded to their maintenance department for repairs.

Residential & Commercial Businesses:

Customers are encouraged to contact Burrtec directly regarding any maintenance needs to their barrels or bins. All maintenance requests are added to the maintenance log and are sent to Burrtec's maintenance department for action.

Burrtec provides a monthly repair/replacement report to the City.

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010 Healthy Lifestyle Challenge

Have you heard all the buzz around town about the 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Challenge?

The goal of this Challenge is to have 2,010 community members sign-up and commit to living a healthier lifestyle in 2010. This year you can join Healthy Fontana and the Mayor and City Council by signing up for the 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Challenge.

By registering at http://www.healthyfontana.org/
you can track your daily physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption and/or weight and receive points for each day you log-in. Each time you log-in and track your progress, you will receive points and chances to win a prize.

As part of the Healthy Challenge, participants will also register for a 5k event that will take place at the Auto Club Speedway on March 27 at 7:45am. The Mayor and City Council encourage all community members, to sign-up today to participate.

“We can support each other in committing to living a healthier lifestyle in 2010”, said Council Member Acquanetta Warren. “Please join us by signing up today!”

For more information on Healthy Fontana or the 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, contact Dede Benson, recreation coordinator, at (909) 349-6914 or debenson@fontana.org.

Don’t miss out! Sign-up today!

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Employee Morale in Tough Economic Times"

Recently, my Assistant wrote a paper about employee morale in the City of Fontana. The paper talks about a number of non-salary strategies to improve morale during a time the City finds it necessary to continue to do more with less. I have attached the paper here for this week’s blog posting.

Employee Morale in Tough Economic Times

Improving employee morale is an ongoing challenge in any workplace, even during good economic times. Now with the current economic crisis, maintaining high employee morale is much more important when asking people to do more with less. Creativity is required when the budget is tight and increasing salaries is not an option. Surveys indicate that salaries are not the end all of an employee's well being; in a well run organization, job satisfaction is derived from more than compensation.

My employer, the City of Fontana, last year eliminated 50 positions through layoffs, eliminating vacancies and early retirements. This year, all employee groups have been asked to forgo the cost of living increase. Employees are being asked to do more with less and, under such difficult circumstances, it is challenging for some to keep an optimistic outlook. The City of Fontana strives to meet employee needs and the management staff has developed several programs to help boost employee confidence and create positive attitudes.

One such program is the "Step Up to Wellness" employee wellness plan. Poor eating habits, lack of exercise and mounting stress play a large role in an employee's morale. To help counter the affects of ill health, we have kicked off the “Step Up To Wellness” program. This includes educational lectures, recreational demonstrations, a walking program, cooking demonstrations, corporate discounts to fitness centers and departmental challenges.

The purpose of the program is to improve employees' well-being with information about the benefits of nutritious eating, exercise in a fun interactive environment, and tips for stress relief. Nutritional lectures and cooking demonstrations teach employees which foods are actually nutritionally beneficial. For example, one lecture talks about the affects of sugar on the body and how eating too much of it can foster a negative attitude. Another lecture is about the benefits of sleep and gives employees tips for restful sleep, which directly affects a person’s outlook on life.

Another part of the program focuses on exercise and how it fosters a positive attitude. The program also features weekly competitions (e.g., a torch run, checkers, basketball, bowling, volleyball, racquetball, tug-a-war, relay obstacle course, floor hockey, golf and potato sack races) between teams of employees to build camaraderie. The entire "Step Up to Wellness" program lets employees know that management cares about them and their health, happiness and well being and stresses the fun and support that comes from being part of a team.

Another benefit the city offers to employees is a flexible work schedule. Typically, organizations have unwavering work hours; however, in Fontana we understand the need for flexibility due to childcare and educational needs. Employees, with the exception of those who work the public counter or phones, can work a four day-ten hour schedule, a five day-eight hour schedule, or a nine day-eighty hour schedule. This gives employees the chance to choose the best schedule for their lifestyle.

The City Manager understands that a happy employee is a productive worker. We have many working mothers who enjoy the ability to take their children to school in the morning and then work later in the day. Some employees attend school in the evening and a flexible schedule allows them to arrive early and leave early. This flexibility is a huge morale booster and employees are grateful for the consideration given to their needs. Fontana also encourages open communication between employees and management and recognizes employee accomplishments. The City Manager has several philosophies that encourage employees with ideas to be a part of the future of Fontana. Open and honest communication is his #1 rule. The City Manager schedules several meetings a year to discuss budget issues, capital projects and community issues with employees in all departments. He asks the employees for ideas to improve the working environment.

He recognizes years of service with an employee breakfast at which he thanks the employees for their dedication to the residents of our community. Twice yearly, he gathers Department Heads to make and serve a breakfast and lunch to employees to express appreciation for their work efforts. Halloween features a fun competition between departments with an annual costume and skit contest. His motto of “Do your job, but have fun along the way” is a phrase of his that resonates through the organization.

Valuing employee’s health, allowing flexible schedules, open communication, and employee appreciation are just a few of the ways the City of Fontana strives to meet employees' needs and increase morale in the workplace. The City also offers education reimbursement, counseling services, retirement preparation, benefit fairs and many other programs for employees. These services and programs are available to all employees from account clerks to public works technicians to police officers.

As a result, Fontana has little employee turnover, and I attribute this to their job satisfaction. Management understands the amount of hours dedicated to a career and strives to create a family atmosphere and genuine team spirit. Many times I look around this city with quiet joy, knowing that my small part in making the community a better place to live, work, and play is appreciated. Even in these tough economic times with fewer staff people and no raises, employees feel respected and valued and continue to work hard because of that morale.

Amy Colbrunn
Assistant to the City Manager

Community Outreach - City Website

Community Member Question:

I must say the city does a great job on trying to inform the residents, but I have noticed that some residents take videos of special events at council meetings and others that I have spoke to have tried to see their child’s event when the cable program KFONTV comes on at the end of that week. I have found it interesting that some do not know that the meetings are on line at http://video.fontana.org/ClientWebApp/Fontana/Default.aspx and that one can click on date and then topic to forward to the point of interest. Having the forward bar is a great time saving tool also. I have found it useful to download the segment or meeting of my choice to save time to review past comments. I have read that their will be improvements on the city site. What kind of new features will be added?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for your comments and interest in the City’s website. The video streaming features that you are referring to are indeed unique to our website. We added this feature to provide community members with the ability to watch the videos in the comfort of their own home.

The City is in the process of a major overhaul of the City’s website. This is not just a project to improve the cosmetics of the way our website looks, but to make a fundamental change in the way we use the Internet to provide information and services to our citizens and business community.

Some of the visible changes to the current website you will begin seeing in late spring, early summer are:

· A new look
· User friendly navigational approach
· How do I find... and “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)”
· A list of the most popular pages/areas on the site
· Department and consolidated calendars
· Improved search engine
· Process Centers detailing all the steps for citizen services

Behind the scenes, we are automating some of the web page design and development and the approval process for getting it published to the City website. This sophisticated “Content Management System” will make it easier and faster for departments to get information onto their web pages regarding city activities and services. It also sets the stage for us to be able to offer some services directly through the website so community members can access these services from home or work.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Compensation and Health Benefits

Community Member Question:

With the shortfalls in many cities budgets, some have blamed the employees income and pension plans to be part of the problem. Many articles have been put out on pension plans about government employees pensions, well beyond what the majority receives. It has been my experience that most employees have a hard time affording to live in the community they serve. I have attached a link to the employee salary. Can you comment on what the average employee makes after 30 years of service earning between the 45,000 to 60,000 income and what medical contribution they receive as well at point of retirement? http://www.fontana.org/main/hr_risk/salary_tables/yard_toc.pdf

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question. The response regarding average compensation and health benefits varies depending on whether the individual is a member of a public safety unit, when they started working for the City of Fontana and their age upon retirement.

At the risk of oversimplifying, an employee with a salary of $50,000 per year would retire after 30 years with $45,000/year if they were a member of Public Safety and $37,500/year if they were non-public safety.

If the employee started with the City after July, 1990, they would receive no retiree health benefits from the city. If they started working prior to July, 1990, they would receive a retiree health benefit amount to reimburse the actual costs of health insurance premiums, not to exceed basic Kaiser HMO rates.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Combatting Grafitti is a Community Effort

Community Member Question:

Last New Years a Council Member suggested to make a resolution to call in Graffiti. Graffiti is one of the most negative images in every community, that is why I have 350-Gone (4663) or 911 for graffiti in progress in my cell phone. It is my belief that the intimidation of Taggers/Gangs devaluate homes, make the community feel unsafe, deface much of the public and private property and at times escalate to harmful situations. This should not be taken lightly and should be a joint effort on all of us in the community to take part to combat this crime by calling it in every where it is seen. It is not my position to have anyone approach such persons. With such harmful and costly actions as graffiti, how does the city deal with reducing these actions?

City Manager Response:

The City of Fontana recognizes the effect that graffiti has on the community as a whole. Graffiti vandalism is not only a quality of life issue for our residents, it also impacts our local business community, and can create a negative impression for people visiting and traveling through Fontana.

We have dedicated many resources towards the removal of graffiti. Citizens that see graffiti are encouraged to call the City’s Graffiti Hotline at 909-350-GONE (4663) or send an e-mail to graffiti@fontana.org. English and Spanish employees are available to assist community members with the filing of their reports.

The City Council established a graffiti response process that requires our graffiti removal crew to remove 80% of all reported graffiti within 24 hours, with no reported graffiti remaining longer than 72 hours. The City’s graffiti removal crew consists of six full time employees operating seven days a week. We have found that quickly removing the graffiti is one of the best deterrents.

Two other notable resources the City uses to combat graffiti are the Graffiti Removal Waiver and the Graffiti Tracker Database. Through the use of a Graffiti Removal Waiver, residents and business owners can give City crews permission to enter privately owned property for the purposes of painting over graffiti. While the responsibility for the appearance and upkeep of private property ultimately belongs to the property owner, this waiver helps to provide another avenue of quick response in fighting the graffiti problem as a whole. For more information on signing a waiver for your residence or business, contact the Public Works Department at (909) 350-6760.

The City also recently enlisted the services of Graffiti Tracker Inc. This company creates a searchable database of graffiti incidents recorded by our graffiti removal crews. Each crew member takes pictures of the graffiti they remove daily using a GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled digital camera. The pictures and the location of the graffiti are uploaded to the Graffiti Tracker database at the end of the day. Police Department personnel can use this database to track prolific taggers working throughout the City. The documented graffiti incidences in the database also aid in the prosecution of taggers once they are apprehended.

It is my belief that the members of this community are one of the best resources to help us continue reducing graffiti in our City.