Los Osos fritters away pool fund

July 11, 2017

Julie Tacker

OPINION by JULIE TACKER

In 1996, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, after an advisory vote from citizens of Los Osos, passed and collected a $40 assessment from each developed residential parcel intending to fund parks and recreation services in Los Osos. That year, $225,000 was collected for these purposes.

The following year Proposition 218 was passed and when the assessment was brought back to the voters, now needing a two-thirds majority necessary to pass, the measure failed.

Characterized as “pool funds” the original $225,000 was later transferred to the newly formed Los Osos Community Services District.  There are no revenue sources for the fund, but for its small interest earnings.  By 2015, the fund grew to $305,836.

In 2006, many residents, including District 2 Parks Commissioner Pandora Nash-Karner, were concerned that those funds might be lost in the district’s bankruptcy. The board at the time was barraged by public comment, letters to the editor in several papers and a Tribune editorial urged the board to “release the money to the county for safekeeping until the county can build an aquatic complex in Los Osos.”

The LOCSD board, agreeing that the fund was a “sacred cow,” pushed back several general managers who recommended drawing upon it for salaries and benefits of office staff.  Until fiscal year 2015-16, the fund was off limits.

The board quietly began drawing on the park and recreation fund for administration in 2015 and by the fiscal year 2017-18 end, the fund will have just $273,683 left; according to the budget recently adopted. If this new practice continues the fund will be depleted by administrative draws with little-to-nothing to show for it.

Spearheaded by current district President Jon-Erik Storm and backed by Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Lou Tornatzky, in addition to drawing administrative funds from the “pool/recreation fund” the district has assigned projects to legal counsel to explore dog park and pocket park leases and liabilities which also draws on this fund.

These parks will have the same restrictions placed on them as any other new development in the Los Osos prohibition zone regarding adequate water supply and habitat conservation mitigation measures. Also a Coastal Commission blessed Community Plan that incorporates the mitigations, must be put in place before any permitting, let alone building, will occur.

At the rate of spending and less and less interest income each year, the fund will have whittled away over the next four to 10 years.

This year’s LOCSD adopted budget reveals the district has continuing financial problems. Five of their seven funds will deficit spend; three of those will need internal loans to balance, while two others will draw upon reserves. Only the water and fire funds are healthy, and that’s only because of a significant rate increase to the water fund this last month that trues up actual costs of operations and reallocates property tax to benefit the fire fund.

The current LOCSD board wants to do new things; their goals include parks and recreation and becoming their own planning commission. While the goal to offer parks and recreation services to the community is laudable, drawing down the fund for administration is not. Becoming a planning commission is simply pie-in-the-sky, piling on more work for a staff that struggles with day-to-day operations, let alone taking on land use matters.

The district should facilitate a financial analysis depicting its overall financial health and hold a public discussion on whether it should be dissolved.  Could the county perform the same services for less money?  Could the county’s economies of scale reduce costs overall?

With negotiations again underway for a raise to another undeserving general manager, the cry for “local control” has played out as more out-of-control than in control.







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24 Comments

  1. October says:

    Seems to me that someone who served on the LOCSD board and helped drive it into bankruptcy has no room to point fingers at others for mismanaging money.

    (12) 30 Total Votes - 21 up - 9 down
    • jimmy_me says:

      But then again, I’m glad there’s not a sewer processing plant in the middle of town.

      (1) 19 Total Votes - 10 up - 9 down
      • Julie says:

        jimmy_me, I encourage you to tour the sewer plant behind the cemetery. Try to imagine force-fitting it onto the Tri-W site and half burying it with depth to groundwater at 15 ft.
        I am thankful every day that we prevailed at stopping that project.

        (-9) 31 Total Votes - 11 up - 20 down
      • wolfhound says:

        Jimmy……… As a 25 year downtown business owner in Los Osos, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

        Many business owners & straight-thinking folk I know in town thought (right or wrongly), that it was outright lunacy to place the plant upwind of our businesses.

        At that point in time, we were not aware it would be built like a small city, as we see it today.

        Thank you SLO County planners & others that made it happen.

        Also, we now have wiggle-room to accommodate sewage from the (860 or so) empty lots some folk have waited many long years to build upon.

        (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
    • Julie says:

      Who better to recognize financial trouble?
      BTW, I’ve been off the board for 9 years, I have nothing to do with the decisions of the current board. In fact, as I asked that they only hit the fund for time and materials, they all remained silent and voted to spend the money.

      (-8) 30 Total Votes - 11 up - 19 down
    • Pelican1 says:

      Amen!

      (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
    • Pelican1 says:

      Exactly!

      (-1) 13 Total Votes - 6 up - 7 down
  2. wolfhound says:

    Seemingly, our Los Osos entire Community was ‘shammed’ in 1996, to stop a County (almost shovel ready) ‘out of town’ gravity sewer project, by 87% voting to get on on-board that faster-better-cheaper sewer-barge.

    After wasting multi-million of $$$$$, we now have a County ‘out-of-town’ gravity system, albeit with many refinements to the counties original plan.

    Undoubtedly, we all inherently know this to be true.

    Today, there are many property owners & renters alike, struggling to come up with the $180 flush money & have to continually row faster & faster to keep our ridiculously unsustainable shit-barge afloat. Time to sink it out of our lives.

    (16) 28 Total Votes - 22 up - 6 down
  3. c.d.cox says:

    The pool fund aka as the fool fund is not the only money that was embellezed many of lost four thousand that was prepaid for the sewer that money was misused to help pay for a lawsuit. Never trust a used car salesman,a lawyer or a polictio.

    (18) 26 Total Votes - 22 up - 4 down
  4. shelworth says:

    Way back when I gave $20 to the fund, I’d like it back now, with interest please…

    (16) 28 Total Votes - 22 up - 6 down
  5. 1965buick says:

    Can they swim in the new sewer?

    (24) 32 Total Votes - 28 up - 4 down
  6. laftch says:

    And the beat goes on.

    (21) 29 Total Votes - 25 up - 4 down
  7. TWEEKSBALMER says:

    They are crooks just like some of our local developers.

    (18) 30 Total Votes - 24 up - 6 down
  8. rukidding says:

    Administrative costs is the thievery tool most used by staff to obtain extra funds for themselves. Most local governments have close to 75% of their budgets that go towards salaries, benefits, retirements and whatever else they can get. So these staff positions are already funded thru the budget process. Now comes along a revenue source, like increased sales tax for roads or additional TOT tax, and staff will attach administrative costs. Now these people have already been budgeted so while taking these administrative costs what they are really doing is depriving the tax payer for what they have paid for. Check some of the project costs and you can see where up to 30% of the funds for the project have gone to administrative costs to pay for positions already budget. Plain and simple that is the definition of stealing.

    (43) 59 Total Votes - 51 up - 8 down
  9. Rambunctious says:

    Like Los Osos was ever going to build a pool….please. It would take them 25 years and multiple fist fights just to determine where to put the damn thing.

    (41) 51 Total Votes - 46 up - 5 down

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