SLO County sold water outside the county, residents foot the bill

July 26, 2022

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County began selling water purchased by county residents to out of county water purveyors in 2008 and 2013, without returning the funds to local property owners as required by law, according to a recent SLO County Grand Jury report.

In 1963, the county entered into an agreement with the California Department of Water Resources to purchase water from the State Water Project. A tax was then added to all county properties to pay for state water, even though not all county residents benefited from the purchase.

Promoted by then-Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and Supervisor Bruce Gibson, the Board of Supervisors approved the sale of excess county water in 2008 and 2013, to out of county purveyors.

However, instead of returning the $6.3 million from the sale of the water to area taxpayers, Ogren placed the funds in the District Zone General Fund.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold’s former appointee to the Water Resources Advisory Committee, Greg Grewal, discovered the error and asked the SLO County District Attorney’s Office to take action. But after several years, the prosecutor’s office found the issue too complex, Grewal said. He then asked the Grand Jury to review the issue.

The Grand Jury determined that money garnered selling state water must be used to reduce county property owner tax burdens, including the $6.3 million already received.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to return $6,510,000 dollars to the taxpayer fund. The item was listed on the consent agenda.

Grewal, however, wants the county to pay back the more than $10 million in interest taxpayers lost through the county’s diversion of funds.


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adustum

Gibson, gibson, gibson. Shirley Bianchi made a big mistake by supporting you.


R.Hodin

Is it just me (no thanks to the writer), or does anyone here have a clue about what the cited county “taxpayer fund” is, how it functions, or how this approved transfer represents some attempt at resolution?


Jorge Estrada

Years ago a rate increase was proposed by the County for CSA 23 and the voters took a 218 vote which squelched the increase. Then the County said that they will take the needed money from the General Fund and charge the CSA 23 rate payer interest. The community then subordinated to the increase to avoid having to pay interest too. The point being, interagency money transfers can’t happen (they call it a loan) without paying interest. If the various colors of money (as government compartmentalizes it) were to be a free for all mix, someone would be in jail and the taxpayers would have good cause for legal action.


womanwhohasbeenthere

“The taxpayer fund”? What is that? It should be returned to the taxpayers who had property here in 2008 and 2013. The County Assessor should have those records. Putting this money in another fund is just another shell game. Think of it like a class action lawsuit: the money recovered goes to the ones who bought or used the product, not to some agency somewhere. If private citizens on the Grand Jury can figure this out, surely our highly paid county counsel can now figure out how to distribute this money to the overtaxed property owners who pay their salaries.


kayaknut

In most class action suits the bulk of the money goes to the lawyers and very little to those actually harmed. Kinda like when an airline is fined for keeping a plane load of passengers onboard sitting on the tarmac. The the airline has to pay a few thousand per passenger to the government, that money should actually go to the passengers on the plane.


R.Hodin

I’m sure renters will appreciate your concern.


mullyman

You see this miss use of funds in all government offices and it just shows you that almost all elected officials are liars and political thieves


obispan

Ogren and Gibson are unashamedly and publicly corrupt. But Rita Neal says it’s ok, hence the salary higher than the state attorney general.