Clovis City Council Meeting Highlights

The Clovis City Council (left to right) Councilman Matt Basgall, Mayor Pro-Tem Vong Mouanoutoua, Mayor Lynne Ashbeck, Councilman Drew Bessinger, Councilwoman Diane Pearce

July 1, 2024 – City Manager John Holt addressed the council on the city’s fiscal outlook, highlighting a projected $14.4 million deficit in the general fund over the next five years. This deficit is driven primarily by rapid expenditure growth outpacing revenue increases, exacerbated by inflationary pressures.

Despite these financial challenges, the proposed 2024/25 budget of $359 million maintains balance through current revenues and available reserves. The allocation includes significant portions to public safety (23%), public utilities (25%), and internal services (23%). However, concerns were raised about stagnant growth in essential services such as fire and police departments, despite a nearly 40% increase in population since 2006.

The council emphasized the need to prioritize public safety amidst rising crime rates, with notable increases in violent crimes and property offenses in recent years. In 2023 alone, Clovis experienced nearly 800 robberies and burglaries and over 250 car thefts, with significant percentage increases in various crime categories from 2021 to 2023.

A crucial part of the meeting was the discussion on water fees and the city’s infrastructure needs, presented by City Engineer Thad Avery and Deputy Public Utilities Director Paul Armendariz. They proposed amendments to the municipal code related to development fees, including revisions to the master development fee schedule and adjustments to fire transition fees. The fire transition fee is set to increase from $883 to $1,209 per acre, reflecting rising property values.

The need for increased water fees was a significant topic. The proposed increases are based on comprehensive cost analyses by the water master plan consultant, Provost and Pritchard. The staff highlighted past recommendations for fee increases: 59% in 2022 and 62% in 2023. However, only a 15% increase was approved in 2022, and no further increase was approved in 2023, leading to the current shortfall.

The failure to implement the proper fee increase has resulted in several issues such as lost revenue, budget deficits, and future index updates lagging behind actual costs, necessitating larger increases later.

Updates to current cost structures could be significant, impacting future budgets. The staff will review these issues over the next 60 days, and the new fees are set to take effect on August 12, 2024, which is the 60-day window from approval to implementation.

If any issues with the water major facilities fees need to be addressed and resolved before August 12th, this 60-day window will restart after those issues are ironed out.

Mayor Pro Tem, Vong Mouanoutoua, advocated for a broader perspective in budget allocations, urging support for initiatives beyond public safety, such as enhancing services at the senior center, which currently operates with only three staff members. He stressed the importance of understanding the needs across various city sectors and not just focusing on public safety.

 Community feedback underscored a strong desire to maintain Clovis’ quality of life while addressing challenges like homelessness and infrastructure needs. Councilmember Diane Pearce suggested starting the budget proposal process earlier to allow more time for public input and feedback. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of public workshops to help citizens understand the budget and city planning.

A significant proposal, spearheaded by City Manager John Holt, focused on enhancing public safety through Proposition 47 reforms. The initiative aims to hold repeat offenders accountable for crimes like retail theft and illicit drug sales while reintroducing incentives for rehabilitation programs. Multiple citizens spoke in support of this proposal, highlighting the community’s concern over increasing crime rates.

In conclusion, Mayor Lynne Ashbeck expressed a collective commitment to building a community that stands out in safety and quality of life. “We all want to build the best community that is better than anyone else around,” she affirmed. The council’s decisions spoke to their dedication to fiscal responsibility and strategic planning amidst ongoing challenges.

The next council meeting, scheduled for July 1st, will continue to address critical community needs and budgetary concerns.

This session highlighted Clovis’ proactive approach to governance, emphasizing community engagement and fiscal prudence in navigating future uncertainties.