Category Archives: Government

BUDGETING IN THE FRONTIER

This is the start of a series of blogs, over the next few months, on the intricacies of sound budgeting.  I think it is important to remember that sound budgeting in good times or bad is critical to the fiscal security and welfare of Plumas County and our citizenry.

As we all know, budgeting and living within that budget (within your means) is very hard during difficult economic times.  Budgeting for local, state and Federal governments for the last six years has been trying to say the least.

This is even more challenging in Plumas County because we are, by many accounts, still considered, even classified as frontier!  We live in a rural, mountain community and therefore face more variables in both revenue (income) and expense (cost) than our urban cities and counties.  Each year it seems our economy is impacted by an uncontrollable event or situation such as wildfires, smoke, too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, no snow, too much snow, highway construction  to name a few.  Because it is so difficult to predict or anticipate that which will impact our economy and what that impact will be to revenue and expenses, maintaining adequate reserves and contingency funds is critical – fiscally responsible.

The Board of Supervisors recently completed a midyear budget review with our departments reporting generally below budget expenditures.  This is good news if it is real.  More importantly, are revenues at or above projections?  I have been looking at our revenue streams and the figures I am seeing are troubling.  While property tax assessments are up, our Sales Tax  and Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) income is either flat or trending downward during a time when the media would have us believe the economy is greatly improved.

We need to be sure we don’t fall into the attitude I have heard recently – “What do you mean I’m broke; I still have checks.”

HOW DOES ALL THIS RELATE to PLUMAS COUNTY and OUR SPECIAL DISTRICTS?

It is important to note that Plumas LAFCO is an independent, presumed neutral agency.  By statute it is a separate public agency from the County and the city of Portola who provide funding and appoint members from their agencies and the public to serve on the Commission. At present, the Commission is comprised five members and alternates:  two members from the Plumas County Board of Supervisors and one alternate appointed by the Board of Supervisors; Two Portola City Council members and one alternate from the City of Portola (if more than one city existed in Plumas County the Mayors from each city would elect the two members and alternate from the ranks of all City Council members); and one Public Member and alternate appointed by the other Commission members. Special District representation would increase the five member Commission to seven (plus an alternate).  So far our Special Districts have chosen not to participate in the governance of LAFCO.  And, therefore do not help fund LAFCO. THE PROBLEM:  There is a move afoot in the Portola area to change the way the LAFCO budget is allocated between the County and City.   At present the cost is split 50/50.  A group of folks in Portola think this is unfair and want the County to pay 90 to 95% of the cost.  However, the makeup of the LAFCO Board would remain the same.  I do not support this change!  I think time would be better spent working with the Special Districts to encourage their membership.  The increased cost to Plumas County would be about $40,000 based on the current budget.  I am being flooded by emails, some from out of Plumas County, to support the change. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

PLUMAS COUNTY vs. US FOREST SERVICE

In 2010 the Plumas National Forest finalized their Travel Management Plan.  Plumas County, Butte County, many other organizations and individuals appealed the decision.  The Forest Service ultimately denied all appeals.

Plumas and Butte, after receiving word of the denial, continued to attempt to work with the Plumas National Forest Supervisor and the Regional Office to come to some sort of agreements that would allow public access to the areas proposed to be closed or restricted.  There were small concessions worked out but no real progress has been made since the 2010 decision.

We have finally had to resort to the Courts for resolution of what we see as denial of access to the public (the owners of the land), lack of “coordination” with the County on the part of the Forest Service, and overall failure of discussions to achieve any suitable outcome. Plumas County is joined by Butte County, the Sierra Access Coalition, and the California Off-Road Vehicle Association in a law suit to be filed shortly.  We will be represented in this effort by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Because details of the law suit are confidential at this point I suggest you visit the Sierra Access Coalition web site for additional information.

LAFCO, SPECIAL DISTRICTS & PLUMAS COUNTY

LAFCO – 1

Many residents have never heard of LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) and have no idea the level of control and power this organization has over local government.  Plumas County Board of Supervisors and Portola City Council will be presented with an argument to change the way Plumas LAFCO has been funded potentially shifting a larger share of the cost to the County and away from the City of Portola.  Before those discussions and decisions take place seems like a good time to explain a little of who and what LAFCO is.

WHAT IS LAFCO?  LAFCO is an intra-local agency that was created by state legislation to ensure that changes in governmental organization occur in a manner that provides efficient and quality services and preserves open space land resources.

LAFCO was created as a legislative response to actions of local jurisdictions in the 1940’s and 50’s.  At the time local governments incorporated/annexed large, irregular portion of land that resulted in irrational urban boundaries with isolated populations and without efficient services or no services at all.  In 1963 the Legislature established a LAFCO in each county and gave them regulatory authority over local agency boundary changes. 

Over a period of years the Legislature has added to and refined the authority of the LAFCOs.  1985 saw the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act which consolidated all statutes relative to local government changes of organization under Government Code 56000, et.seq.  The Legislature formed a Commission on Local Governance in the 21st Century which came up recommendations which were based on the following presumptions: (1) The future will be marked by continued phenomenal growth, (2) California lacks a plan to accommodate growth, (3) local government is plagued by fiscal insecurity, and (4) the public is not engaged.

With the passage of the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000, effective in 2001, LAFCO powers were consolidated.  They now have specific authority to review, approve or disapprove:

Annexations to or detachments from cities or special districts

Formation or dissolution of special districts

Incorporation or Disincorporation of cities

Consolidation, merger or reorganizations of cities or special districts

Development of, amendments to Spheres of Influence

Extensions of service beyond an agency’s (district’s) jurisdiction

Provision of new or different services by special districts

Conduct Municipal Service Reviews of services, update Spheres of Influence and Sphere Horizons at least once every five years.

As you can see LAFCO has tremendous authority as well as direct and profound impact on land use, provision of services and the overall quality of life in Plumas County.  In my next blog I will discuss Plumas LAFCO in more detail and talk about some of the issues that will be in the news very soon regarding LAFCO and its funding base.