Less than two years ago, the city of Cathedral City faced a budget crisis. A deficit of $8 million forced the city to cut 61 employees, including public safety positions. Two years later, the city now has a balanced budget and now a new city manager to carry them forward. Still, the city faces challenges. "Future is very bright for Cathedral City. I think our best days are in front of us," said Charlie McClendon in front of a crowd of city employees and residents.
McClendon was introduced as the new city manager of Cathedral City. He spent the last ten years in the same position in Avondale, Arizona. Now, he's focused on making sure Cathedral City brings in more money than it's spending. "Financial stability, it is revenue," said mayor Kathy DeRosa. "Expenses are well under control, it's a matter of how we can increase revenue."
Voters will decide whether or not one of those ways will continue at a special election in June. In 2010, residents approved a 1% sales tax increase, generating nearly $4 million a year for the general fund. Some business owners are ready to see it expire. "I'd like to see the city live and work in a budget, and not rely on other monies coming from hard-working people," said Karen Penico-Willis, a Cathedral city resident and business owner.
Another concern for residents is the public safety in the city. To balance the budget, the city cut 14 positions in the police department and five in the fire department. "I am interested in bringing things back to the extent that we're able to afford that fiscal soundness," said McClendon.
Another challenge McClendon must address is the way council members use city money. Greg Pettis faces scrutiny over large travel expenses on a city-issued credit card. Mayor pro tem Chuck Vasquez will soon appear in court to face misuse of city money charges. McClendon says he plans to fix issues like this with complete transparency. "To always spend public money in an open manner, so that anybody who's interested in the public can find out what we're doing with their money," said McClendon. "I intend to operate the city in that manner."
McClendon is set to make about $187,000 a year, roughly the same as the previous city manager.