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Council holds first meeting on 2020 budget, crime down in Claremont

by Matthew Bramlett | news@claremont-courier.com

Tuesday night’s council meeting featured the first of five public meetings about the 2020 budget process.

Finance Director Adam Pirrie presented early revenue numbers from a number of different funds and how they compare to last year’s numbers. He warned that these numbers are early estimates and may change before June 9, when the council will adopt the budget.

This is the first meeting of five scheduled throughout the first half of the year to allow Claremonters to be a part of the budget process. This new method was created due to backlash from the proposed Council Budget Working Group, which was initially going to be closed to the public and the press.

The overall preliminary revenue estimates amount to $52,786,961, which is only about $96,000 less than last year’s estimates, representing a drop of .18 percent.

The general fund, however, has so far seen revenues of $27,648,333, which represents a 1.79 percent jump from last year’s numbers.

Diving deeper into the general fund, property tax revenues are up 4.47 percent from last year, sales tax revenues are down by a third of a percent from last year, transit occupancy taxes are up by 1.72 percent and utility user tax revenues are down by 3.25 percent from last year.

Licenses and permits have jumped significantly from last year, with early estimates 33 percent higher. This is due to new and upcoming residential projects such as Gable Crossing, the Old School House condos, the Knight’s Inn redevelopment and Meadow Park.

Fines and forfeitures are also up 7.2 percent from last year’s numbers. In particular, Mr. Pirrie said revenues from parking citations are expected to climb due to increased enforcement.

The transportation fund, which features the city’s Dial-A-Ride service, is down 2.8 percent from last year’s numbers. Mr. Pirrie noted that Dial-A-Ride ridership has been decreasing in the past few years, with a reduction in expected passenger fares of $20,000.

One section of the budget that also saw a significant downturn is the traffic offender fund, which generates revenue for the city’s impound lot. Impound lot revenues have been going down for several years, Mr. Pirrie said, because state law has made it easier for Californians to get their cars back without paying high impound fees.

Those fees had partially paid for traffic officers in past years, which could present a problem in the future.

During public comment, Matt Magilke brought up the doling out of bonuses to city employees when a surplus was realized at the end of last year. He called for a list of priorities of what to spend surpluses on in the future.

“Are we going to spend the surplus on bonuses or are we going to spend it on fixing the Hughes Center that we hear about all the time,” he said.

Mayor Larry Schroeder defended the payments, noting they were negotiated with employee groups as a one-time replacement for a percentage increase in pay during “hard times.”

“I wish that language of ‘bonus’ would disappear,” Mr. Schroeder said.

In his comments, councilmember Corey Calaycay laid the blame at the foot of the state on some budget issues, such as the decrease in revenue from the impound lot. He also took issue with the small number of people present, considering it was about an important topic that could shape the city’s future. 

“You can shoot a cannon down the aisle and you wouldn’t hit anybody, because nobody is here,” he said.

The next budget meeting will be during the March 25 city council meeting. At that meeting, the council will hear projected expenditures, as well as a presentation from a representative of CalPERS.

There will be time set aside for public comment.

 

Crime down in Claremont

The annual part one crime report was released Tuesday, showing a dramatic drop in multiple crime categories throughout the City of Trees.

In total, part one crimes in 2019—which count for homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson—were down by 16 percent from 2018’s numbers, according to the report.

Last year saw the lowest total number of part one crimes since 1985, when the Claremont Police Department first started using computers to log crime data, Chief Shelly Vander Veen said at?Tuesday night’s council meeting.

In particular, residential burglaries in 2019 are down by 23 percent from 2018 numbers, from 143 down to 110. Thefts in 2019 decreased by 15 percent from 2018, from 647 down to 552. Commercial burglaries remained the same, with 77 committed in 2018 and 2019.

Robberies, however, increased in 2019. There was a 23 percent jump, from 19 in 2018 to 23 in 2019. Forty percent of those robberies involved a firearm, the chief said, and many of the victims were marijuana delivery drivers.

There were no murders in 2019, as opposed to one in 2018; rapes in Claremont were down from eight in 2018 to five in 2019; assaults were down from 31 in 2018 to 22 in 2019; overall burglaries were down from 220 in 2018 to 187 in 2019; auto thefts were down from 57 in 2018 to 31 in 2019, and arsons remained the same at six in both 2018 and 2019.

Theft from unlocked vehicles, a stubborn problem in Claremont over the past few years, decreased as well. There were 59 of those kinds of thefts in 2019, as opposed to 93 in 2018, the data shoed. Auto burglaries, however, increased from 108 in 2018 to 132 in 2019.

The chief noted that 28 burglary suspects were arrested based on calls from observant residents, and an additional 12 suspects were arrested at the scene or after investigations.

Councilmember Jed Leano asked the chief if the proliferation of Ring cameras aided in those figures, and Chief Vander Veen said they did.

“I think it has had an impact on arrests and keeping crime down,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Stark expressed gratitude for the police’s hard work, and noted the community policing model “has shown great results.”

The council also passed the Urban Forest Management Plan, a guiding document for the city’s trees and parks. More on that will be in next week’s issue of the COURIER.

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