Menifee Mayor Scott Mann addresses the crowd at Menifee Lakes Country Club Thursday during his State of the City address.
Suffice it to say that Governor Jerry Brown would not win any popularity contests around Menifee City Hall. But that’s OK. City officials had a party anyway, and Brown wasn’t invited.
After the obligatory greeting and introductions, Menifee Mayor Scott Mann began his State of the City address on Thursday by repeating his complaint of the previous night’s City Council meeting. Although he is proud of city officials’ commitment to “keep Menifee moving” in the midst of obstacles, he is frustrated and angry about the major hurdle the governor has placed in their path.
Specifically, Mann is furious that Brown continues to block efforts to restore an annual loss of $4.2 million in potential revenue to the city — a loss created by legislation Brown approved in 2011 that denies revenue from vehicle license fees to four recently incorporated cities — including Menifee.
According to Mann, Menifee has been denied more than $20 million in revenue it would’ve received in VLF funds in the last five years — funds that all cities in the state receive except for Menifee, Wildomar, Jurupa Valley and Eastvale. As part of Brown’s 2011-12 budget adjustments, SB 89 and AB 118 were established to divert that portion of VLF revenue to other state programs.
As City Manager Rob Johnson and Mann pointed out during the City Council meeting, the projected lost revenue of $4.2 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year will mean the difference between a budget surplus and the budget approved Wednesday night — which will be balanced only by dipping into $2.4 million of reserve funds. Even after Johnson cut $1.15 million in proposed expenditures, projected general fund expenses for the city for the next year total $31,795,333, compared to revenue of $29,380,373.
There are currently bills working their way through the state Senate and Assembly seeking to restore those lost VLF funds. There is no indication, however, that Brown would do anything other than what he has done three times before — veto the bills.
“As the City of Menifee heads into its ninth year, we have accomplished many things for a city that has experienced the annual loss of $4.2 million in vehicle license fee revenue,” Mann said at the start of his speech on Thursday. Near the end of his presentation, he brought attention to that point again.
“It is not easy to stand here before you today as the mayor of this remarkable city and report that we have a ‘structural budget deficit’ created by forces outside of the city’s lifelines,” said Mann, who urged guests to write the Governor’s office regarding the situation. “The bottom line with our budget is that the rising costs of public safety is unsustainable over time — and we must do something about it.”
Much has been written previously about the large percentage of the general fund dedicated to police and fire protection — 66 percent of the newly approved budget. Yet while bemoaning the lost VLF revenue and the inability to increase police protection because of rising costs, Mann quickly morphed into an upbeat look at city commercial projects that reflect the city’s growth to nearly 90,000 and the potential tax revenue that will come along with them.
“Despite everything, we have managed to keep Menifee moving, make heads turn, get projects completed, increase jobs and buinesses, and increase the quality of life for our residents,” Mann said. He added that the theme for city development this year is “Progress, Partnership and Posterity.”
Then, in a sign of this multimedia day and age, Mann turned guests’ attention to large screens, where a 17-minute video was played. Introduced by Mann, the four City Council district representatives gave detailed descriptions of projects under way in their areas of the city.