By Martin Henderson
Maybe it was the confidence from Assemblywoman Diane Harkey telling the crowd at the Dove Canyon Golf Club that she had tried to convince Tony Beall to run for her vacant seat in Sacramento. Or maybe it was from the confidence of having a deck full of aces up his sleeve. Or maybe it was from the confidence of knowing more than a year's budget is in the bank, the city is the safest in the state, and development opportunities abound.
Whatever it was, when Beall took the microphone at his third consecutive mayor's address, it took him only 40 seconds to pronounce the state of the city "strong, very strong."
Beall talked budget, economics, business and awards during his State of the City address. He talked development, public safety and landscaping. Over the course of 50 minutes he touched on many things, and almost all of them could be blanketed by the same adjectives.
Impressive. Outstanding. Fantastic.
There weren't enough superlatives to go around as Beall thanked his colleagues on the council and the Rancho Santa Margarita City staff, as well as business leaders who had gathered at the golf club during the Chamber of Commerce breakfast that shone chamber of commerce weather on the city's well-being.
The City has $22 million in the bank. That's more than a year's operating budget, meaning if the City didn't take in another dime, it could operate for more than a year—and that includes funding the extra summer concerts. For the third year in a row, the City finished with more than $1 million in surplus.
"We're in a sound, strong and sustainable financial position," Beall said. "We're poised for future growth and success."
Among the mayor's talking points:
- Watch the video to see the new Alicia T and Antonio Parkway landscaping
Almost half the budget is devoted to public safety. Over the past year, Rancho Santa Margarita experienced its lowest crime rate since becoming a city in 2000, and experienced a 14 percent drop in the most serious crime, Beall said.
For the third year in a row, the FBI Uniform Crime Report ranked RSM the safest city in the state among cities with populations over 35,000, and for the first time ever, the No. 1 safest city of any size in Orange County.
Beall also touched on the newly formed Child Safety Officer and its success within the community, and reported the Orange County Fire Authority responded to 1,541 medical calls, 599 public calls for assistance and 35 residential and commercial structure fires.
Beall said two new software programs have been added to the City website to allow businesses and developers—anyone, actually—to access demographic data about the community and see what commercial space is available.
Beall reeled off a number of businesses that have opened in the past year, including: In-N-Out Burger, Cinépolis, Panera Brea, Nekter, The Blind Pig Kitchen and Bar, Mathnasium, UFC Gym, First Citizens Bank, West Coast Jujitsu, Camptin Concept and Design Center, Urban Jinx, Bentley Flooring and Opus Bank. He cited several businesses that are or have expanded or renovated, including the Dove Canyon Golf Club, Applied Medical, Willow Manor, Spa Gregories, Pizza e Vino, McDonald's and Bowl of Heaven.
Although some businesses have left, such as Crown Books, Beall said BevMo will open at that location this year.
"They believe the future is bright," Beall said of local businesses investing millions into the community, "and so do I."
Anyone who knows Beall knows Mello-Roos taxes are important to him; last year he spoke about an online tool at the City website that allowed residents to find out when their taxes would expire. This year he reported the City obtained an audit of 19 Mello-Roos tax districts within the city and got letters in writing from those agencies confirming the termination dates.
"Beginning this fall, some homeowners in RSM will see their annual property tax bill drop by as much as $6,000 ...," Beall said, "(and) should also see the fair market value of their properties increase significantly."
Over the next year, the City will undertake a series of beautification projects, including a renovation of the "Alicia T" which includes a new monument sign and landscaping, a landscaped center median on Antonio Parkway, and create a more lush entrance to the commercial/industrial area at Santa Margarita Parkway and Empresa.
Beall also touched on Chiquita Ridge, which would alleviate the shortage of sports fields, and told the audience that a big box store as part of the project would generate more than $1 million annually in sales tax revenue for the City if it decides to go that route.
• Beall touched on the annual Patriot Day celebration which was expanded to include a concert and essay contest and become more of a festival to honor first responders and the City's adopted 2nd Battalion 5th Marines Regiment from Camp Pendleton.
• The City continues its relationship with local homeowners associations, The Bell Tower Foundation, Historical Society and the South Orange County Economic Coalition.
• The City formed a new partnership with the Boys & Girls Club to operate the Youth Lounge at the Bell Tower Regional Community Center, and works with Age Well Senior Services to provide programs for the community's older members.
• The City's relationship with the Chamber of Commerce is strong, and the Chamber membership "has skyrocketed" and offered strong support and assistance to business owners.