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By Andrea Swayne
The financial plan for the city over the next two years was unveiled and approved at the Dana Point City Council meeting Tuesday, despite concerns raised by the public regarding a lack of specific attention being paid to the Doheny Village area of Capistrano Beach.
The approval was done in three votes. A resolution to adopt the budget, passed 4-1, with Councilman Scott Schoeffel casting the “no” vote. The two other votes—one establishing the appropriations limit for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 and one adopting a position title, salary range and class specification for an assistant administrative analyst, were approved 5-0.
Members of a community group dubbed Capo Cares were among the most vocal opponents to the proposed Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 budget due to what they say is an ongoing lack of regard for Capistrano Beach.
Along with a handful of the group’s resident representatives who spoke during public comments, 12 letters sent to the city in support of Capo Cares’ budget concerns and recommended changes to the document were included in the meeting agenda packet.
Capo Cares’ requested changes to the document, as summarized by group member Toni Nelson, centered on four specific points—establishing a timeline for completion of the Doheny Village Plan by June 30, 2016; an immediate allocation of funds for cleanup, landscaping and lighting improvements; adding a satellite police station in the neighborhood and creating a reserve fund earmarked for revitalization of the area.
City Manager Doug Chotkevys launched the discussion, introducing the document to the city councilmen as a funding plan. “All big items will come back to you as agenda items,” Chotkevys told the council.
Included in Chotkevys’ preface of the budget presentation, he pointed out that due to the community policing strategy of city deputies—contracted through the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and led by Dana Point Chief of Police Lt. Russ Chilton—the city has never been safer.
He also mentioned that thanks to the work of a deputy liaison directing the city’s transients to established services across the county, the homeless population is down. Both are trends expected to continue as a result of the proposed $560,000 build-out of a police substation at City Hall that appears in the budget. Chotkevys referred to the substation as an “upside for the community in terms of public safety,” as it will allow the county-employed deputies greater focus on Dana Point issues.
Chotkevys also spoke of the revitalization of the Doheny Village area of Capistrano Beach as remaining on the list of the city’s priorities.
Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew gave a Powerpoint presentation, including General Fund, Capital Improvement Fund and other funding detailed in the document.
GENERAL FUND REVENUES
Killebrew began with General Fund revenue projections, noting that the city’s greatest increases are expected to come from the tourism industry, projecting the current upward trend to continue.
“Tourism is thriving,” Killebrew said. “Hotels are setting records month after month… Transient Occupancy Tax is setting records…”
The budget showed TOT at $11.75 million in Fiscal Year 2015, a record, and projects a flat year in 2016 with $11.6 million, followed by $11.8 million in 2017.
Property tax is expected to rise by 3.25 percent in 2016 to $6.8 million and again by 3.2 percent in 2017 to $7 million.
Sales tax projections also show an increase—$5.6 million (up by 2.5 percent) in 2016 and $5.75 million (up 2 percent) in 2017.
Development-related licenses, permits and charges for 2016 are listed at $2.5 million (down 16.5 percent) and in 2017 at $2.6 million, a 2.7 percent increase.
Councilman Scott Schoeffel asked for clarification regarding the total percentage of revenue represented by TOT—22 to 23 percent.
“The real volatility then rests with Transit Occupancy Tax,” Schoeffel said.
GENERAL FUND EXPENDITURES
The budget calls for a 2.3 percent increase to $32.4 million in 2016 and $33.8 million (up 4.2 percent) in 2017.
Large expense line items include the contract with the Sheriff’s Department, personnel costs, street maintenance and parks and related utilities.
Enhancements include the building of the City Hall-located police substation, a move city staff said will add more than 2,000 patrol hours per year as well as improved efficiency with which deputies are deployed, a value of more than $500,000 annually along with about $125,000 in net savings.
Councilman Rick Viczorek said that based on the substation’s estimated $560,000 cost, the project should pay for itself.
Killebrew concurred, adding that, “It’s like buying more services without spending more money.”
Lt. Chilton said the first order of business is getting full-time deputies in Dana Point and that a Capistrano Beach substation is something his department and the city will look at down the road.
“Our order of priority is to get the officers to work out of City Hall, to get better deployment,” he said, adding that the idea is not to have more officers sitting at desks, but out on patrol—including an increased presence in Capo Beach.
Other enhancements include long-range planning updates of $825,000 combined in 2016 and 2017 for Doheny Village Plan completion, a General Plan update, a historic resources inventory, environmental impact reports for long-range plans and an economic development plan.
The Capital Improvement Program for 2016 has an estimated carryover from 2015 of $7.45 million, to be used for the Del Prado project ($4.5 million), residential street rehab projects ($2.35 million), a San Juan Creek storm drain ($200,000) and other projects totaling $400,000. Mandated repair and replacement projects, costing $1.9 million, include median drought conversion and smart controllers, residential street and storm drain rehab, water quality systems, traffic safety and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. Improvements for 2017 also include $900,000 for a Coast Highway bikeway, undergrounding of electrical systems ($2.2 million) and $500,000 for citywide wayfinding signage.
Councilman John Tomlinson asked how budget adjustments and flexibility, down the road for Doheny Village would be accomplished.
“If we come across something that needs funding we will come back to City Council,” Chotkevys said.
Members of the public voiced concern with the lack of a specified timeline and funds set aside for Doheny Village revitalization.
“Capo Cares requests specific funding items for Doheny Village be put into the budget,” Ann Romano said. “Last year merchants asked the city for help, meetings were held, promises were made but none were kept.”
Ziad Mahshi, owner of 2nd Hand Treasures in Capo Beach agreed.
“This area should be a developers dream … but we have to call police on a weekly basis,” Mahshi said. “It’s time for City Council to show a real commitment by establishing a timeline.”
Nelson, speaking on behalf of Capo Cares, asked council to establish a real timeline by June 30.
“Twenty-one years is far too long… ” Nelson said. “Further delays are unacceptable. (The area) stands in stark contrast to the rest of the city. It is an embarrassment… establish a substation… create a specific reserve fund for Doheny Village.”
Sandy Iverson pointed out some of what she feels is unnecessary spending in other areas of the city that could be better used in Capo Beach.
“Last year $100,000 spent for a bocce ball court… $600,000 on a Lantern District entry archway… and we’re considering spending money for a joint venture skatepark,” Iverson said. “This is money that could be used to clean up Capo Beach.”
Area business owner Larry Robinson called the lack of attention to Capo Beach “annoying.”
“There’s been a major disconnect between downtown and Capo Beach,” Robinson said. “I hope the city manager can deliver. We have heard so much lip service over the years to address issues in Capo Beach.”
Councilman Schoeffel asked about where funds would come from for Doheny Village projects.
“If we get to a hearing on June 16 to start talking about what Doheny Village will look like, and we were to make a specific budget adjustment to allow for funding, where would it come from,” he asked. “If a consensus to perform Doheny Village work is made, how much room in the budget is there to make a budget adjustment for it at that time? Is there $100,000, $500,000?
“Not long ago, in the same room, the council made a decision to spend a lot of money… with some difference of opinion. We need to come up with a wise way of replenishing those funds,” he added. “In my household, if you spent a lot that was usually followed by a period of time when you saved a lot. Whatever we could do to get back to replenishing our funds… is something I would surely endorse.”