The Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors recently held their 3rd annual ‘Breakfast with the City Managers’ event and featuring Bob Johnson (Temecula), Rick Dudley (Murrieta), Frank Oviedo (Wildomar), Bill Rawlings (Menifee) and Tom Evans (Lake Elsinore). The event is one of the highlights of the year for many members and this year was no different.
City Managers reminded us how fortunate we are to be living and working in our communities. Our cities may not exactly be thriving during these challenging times but they are all doing way better than most. Despite last year’s pilferage of redevelopment funds and the added insult of stripping VLF funds equaling 22% of Wildomar’s budget and 18% of Menifee’s, infrastructure improvements, job attraction and parks continue to figure prominently in each city’s action plan.
Every city is also experiencing some degree of revitalization as well. Unemployment rates are lower in our region than the national average and significantly lower than the rest of Riverside County. There are new apartment buildings going up in Temecula and 5 new housing tracts under development in Wildomar. New restaurants, shops and businesses are starting to fill in some of those shuttered buildings that have populated our region for the past few years. Public safety in our cities is among the best in the nation as is our education system. While there have been some municipal lay-offs, our cities have been able to negotiate with their employees and service providers to maintain a high level of service to residents within the economic realities of our times.
All acknowledge that there are still challenges ahead for our region. One manager opined that it might be 20 years before the cities see a return to the level of property tax revenue they enjoyed just four years ago. But as the cities diversify their base that becomes less significant. Temecula currently gets only about 10% of its budget from property taxes while Menifee, one of our newest cities, relies on property taxes for nearly 50% of their budget. An aggressive business attraction plan aims to reduce that dependency over the next few years.
Both Murrieta and Temecula have held discussion about the merits of becoming a charter city and you’ll be hearing more about that. The managers also shared the challenges and frustrations of dealing with some aspects of our state and federal government. One recent example was the state’s last minute decision to recalibrate the way they assess the cities and gave cities a three day payment window or be assessed penalties. Two of our cities took hits of nearly $2 million dollars, the others lost lesser amounts. It can be vexing to be a pro-business region in California.
Should you have an opportunity to visit with any of our local City Managers, you will find them most helpful and ready to expound on the positive things happening in our region. While each city strives to maintain its own identity and be the best for its own residents, there is a great sense of shared community among the cities acknowledging that a business gain in Lake Elsinore benefits Menifee, a new overpass in Temecula is good for Murrieta traffic and a new brewpub in Wildomar would be good for me. Talk to your City Managers. They are good folks and eager to keep our cities moving in the right direction.