Hoping to ease community tensions, city officials today will start televising a video about a controversial proposal to disband the city's 65-year-old Police Department and contract for law enforcement with the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
The 40-minute presentation featuring Assistant Sheriff Dennis W. LaDucer and Capt. Doug Storm was filmed Wednesday in the City Council Chambers at the request of San Clemente officials. It will be broadcast several times on public access Channel 30 starting today at 3 p.m.
Also, a brochure about the proposal was sent to all households in San Clemente on Thursday.
"The city is very concerned that people make judgments based on the facts," LaDucer said Thursday.
In the video, LaDucer and Storm outline what might happen if the City Council approves contracting with the Sheriff's Department, a move that could save the financially troubled city an estimated $4 million over the next two years.
At the council's request, the Sheriff's Department proposed to assume law enforcement services for a cost of about $5.78 million per year.
Under the proposal, the number of street patrol officers would increase by up to 75% at night and 35% during the day. Virtually all of the 75 sworn and civilian employees in the Police Department have been guaranteed positions in the Sheriff's Department. City police officers who become sheriff's deputies would get pay raises of $10,000 to $14,000 a year.
The Sheriff's Department video and brochures are part of an effort by city officials to inform residents about the city's budget problems.
On Wednesday, the council started considering a 300-page long-term financial plan, which paints a dismal five-year financial forecast for the city of 43,000 people.
If economic conditions remain poor and major cuts are not made, the city could face shortfalls of from $1.8 million to $3 million in each of the coming five years, Assistant City Manager Paul Gudgeirsson told the council Wednesday.
City officials are already projecting a shortfall of about $2 million this year, including about $1.5 million in property tax revenues that could be lost to the state. Property tax revenues make up about a third of the city's annual $20-million general fund operating budget.
The council will begin discussing possible solutions to the budget problems, from raising taxes to merging police services with the Sheriff's Department, on Saturday during an all-day special hearing starting at 9 a.m. in the City Council Chambers.
"None of (the solutions) are going to be easy," City Manager Michael W. Parness said. "None of them are going to be popular."
The Sheriff's Department telecast will also be shown on the following dates: Tuesday at 10 a.m., Thursday at 4 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. In addition, the city will rebroadcast the Wednesday budget session today at 10 a.m. The budget session on Saturday will also be telecast live on Channel 30.