SUN CITY ---- Supervisor Jeff Stone will be the featured speaker at the Aug. 25 evening meeting of Kiwanis Club of Menifee.
The group will meet at 6 p.m. at Boston Billie's, 26850 Cherry Hills Blvd. in Sun City. The dinner meeting costs $15 per person.
To reserve a seat, call Carmelita at 951-679-7552
Woo Hoo! I can ride my bike there, but it's kind of hard in a Barney costume.
In other Jeff Stone news: (This happened because some people made it happen: Lirra, Julie, Julia Glick and others)
Riverside County adopts stricter rules for county vehicle use
Riverside County taxpayers shell out an estimated $4.7 million a year for employees to drive county cars between their homes and work, according to a recent audit, an expenditure that officials hope to reduce with stricter policies.
The county audit found employees take home one in every five vehicles from the county's fleet of 5,300 cars and trucks. The county designates take-home cars for some law enforcement officers, child social workers and other employees who frequently respond to urgent situations when they are off duty.
Auditors said many employees were driving take-home cars needlessly and that department heads assigned some vehicles without appropriate authorization.
"These are perks from a previous era," Supervisor Bob Buster said of excessive take-home cars and taxpayer-funded commuting costs. "Frankly, they don't fit today's economy and today's budget."
After Auditor-Controller Robert Byrd issued the report on the fleet last month, supervisors approved tighter restrictions.
The new vehicle policy, approved and implemented July 14, provides highly specific criteria that employees must meet in order to merit a take-home vehicle for off-duty emergencies. It limits the assignment of take-home cars to sworn law enforcement officers and certain specially trained employees expected to respond regularly to specific emergencies.
The county has already cut down the number of take-home cars but officials say they do not yet know by how many. Departments are submitting information to the county this month about their car use.
Once the county has reduced the overall number of take-home cars and implemented other planned policy changes, it should consider limiting what it pays for commuting costs, Buster said.
"But we can't fix everything overnight in one fell swoop," he said. "We are going to have to accomplish this in stages."
County staff said they expect the new policy will cut the number of take-home vehicles in half but said they do not know how much it would save the county in gas and wear-and-tear from daily commutes.
The county spends about $43.7 million each year to purchase, fuel and maintain all of the vehicles in its fleet, the audit said.
County spokesman Ray Smith said the take-home vehicles allow employees to respond more quickly when called out from home to provide emergency service. They do not have to stop to pick up a county vehicle first, he said. In some cases, employees need specialized vehicles to respond to emergencies.
"We are not giving employees a car so they can commute to and from work," Smith said. "They have them because of their work and having the cars makes it easier for them to do their jobs and to respond to emergencies."
The county wants to ensure that all the people who take home cars need them for their jobs, Smith said. He added that as far as he knows, the county has not reconsidered its practice of paying commuting costs for legitimate take-home car use. Nor does the county seek to limit the distances employees with take-home cars travel to and from work, he said.
"We cannot tell people where to live," he said.
The audit report estimates that 63 percent of the miles driven in take-home cars are commuting miles. The average commuting cost per take-home car comes out to about $4,400 a year, the report said.
In total, auditors found about 1,055 take-home cars. Of those cars, the county executive office authorized only 881. Departments appear to have assigned other vehicles without obtaining required executive approval, the audit said.
The audit also said one department had dozens of take-home cars and minimal recent off-duty emergencies. Another failed to obtain required executive authorization for more than 300 take-home vehicles. The audit did not name the departments. The auditor-controller's office said last week it would supply the names as soon as possible but has not yet provided them.
Reach Julia Glick at 951-368-9442 or jglick@PE.com