Monday, November 5, 2012

Salida MAC Newsletter - November 2012

The October Salida MAC meeting is now viewable online by clicking this link – thanks to Salida MAC Councilmember, Brad Johnson and local Salida Public Radio Station 104.9 FM or read the summarized meeting content below. ~ Katherine Borges, Editor

Fire Department Report
The October Salida MAC meeting opened with a report by Modesto Regional Fire Authority Deputy Chief Dale Skiles who reported that the fire department's call volume is average right now, but with the coming rainy season, it should lessen. He encouraged fire safety for the coming holidays and asked residents to call 552-3600 with any questions.

No Sheriff or CHP report this month.

Salida Sanitary Report
Salida Sanitary Boardmember, Brad Johnson, reported that the sanitary district had a presentation about solar power by a solar contractor. Salida Sanitary is exploring solar to save on energy costs. Mr. Johnson extended an invitation to attend Salida Sanitary's board meetings which are held on the second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. The meeting location is held at Salida Sanitary's headquarters. Visit for more information.

SAPFFA – Salida Area Public Facilities Finance Agency (Mello Roos) Report
Director of Planning Facilities Support for Modesto City Schools, Becky Meredith shared that she administers several Mello Roos districts including the one for Salida known as Salida Area Public Facilities Finance Agency (SAPFFA). Ms. Meredith brought a map of the SAPFFA area which was formed in 1988 and said that anything built before 1988 was not in the Mello Roos district. SAPFFA was formed by the Salida Union School District, Salida Sanitary District, the Salida Fire District, and the Modesto High School District and although Stanislaus County is not a voting member of SAPFFA, the county was an integral part in the formation of SAPFFA and many county projects have been paid for from SAPFFA. The SAPFFA Board of Trustees is made up of two members from the Salida Sanitary District, one member each from the Salida Fire District, Salida Union School District and the Modesto High School District. The board meets in June and December to adopt the budget and authorize the paying of bills. Meeting notices are posted at the Salida Library, the school districts and in the Modesto Bee.

The Mello Roos district is a state law that goes back to 1982, Senator Mello and Assemblyman Roos crafted this law to allow taxes to be levied on new development to pay for certain designated public improvements like capital facilities such as schools, streets, and sewer lines. Land is annexed to a Mello Roos district by residential developers prior to the homes being built as a way to finance required infrastructure because by doing so, it can be financed at tax exempt rates.

Director of Planning Facilities Support for Modesto City Schools,
Becky Meredith explains Mello Roos taxes.
Ms. Meredith then went over handouts including a SAPFFA press release. Mello Roos laws state that public facilities to be financed have to have a use of five years or longer. SAPFFA has paid for over thirty separate projects that have been built since 1988 for a total cost of approximately $50 million dollars. SAPFFA does not own nor operate any of these improvements. Only projects listed and approved for in 1988 can be paid for by SAPFFA. The bonds will be paid off on September 1, 2030.

The last project paid for by SAPFFA was in 2005 in which the Modesto High School District received funds for the land purchase for Gregori High School. Stanislaus County also received $7.6 million for a variety of improvements such as park sites, storm drains, and roads. The most recent improvement which occurred around 2005 was the Broadway Avenue and Salida Boulevard intersection improvements.

There are 2,817 properties that pay the Salida Mello Roos district tax. In November 2011, the SAPFFA finance committee refinanced the existing SAPFFA Mello Roos debt. The estimated annual savings per property is $120. The actual savings range was $168-$187 annually per property ($140 savings on average). It is possible that the debt can go down again.

The difference between the Mello Roos tax and your regular property tax is that the property tax is based on the value of your home whereas the Mello Roos tax is not based on the value of your home. It is a tax established when the districts formed and they figure out exactly what they want the Mello Roos district to build and pay for, they figure out how much it will cost and the cost to finance it, then they spread the cost over all the properties that are in those boundaries.

During the Q&A, a question was asked how they know how much projects will cost? Ms. Meredith replied that engineers project the cost and inflation is factored in for the proposed cost of the project. She gave an example that the entire project for Gregori High School was not paid for by SAPFFA, only the land was purchased by SAPFFA. It was purchased from the Van Koynenburg Trust and a few other land owners for $8.94 million. The land purchase not only includes the school site but also some right-of-way purchases and school buses.

The next question asked was how much Mello Roos taxes were collected every year? Ms. Meredith replied that it changes every year, but that the current tax roll to be collected for 2012-2013 is $2.5 million. That was followed by a question of how much debt was left and her reply was about $30 million dollars. The attendee also asked if there was a pre-payment penalty if the Mello Roos bonds were paid off early and Ms. Meredith replied in the affirmative. She said that typically, bonds cannot be called prior to ten years once they've been issued. The earliest the SAPFFA bonds could be refinanced or pre-paid is in ten years from now since they were just refinanced in 2011. The new interest rate range is between 3-5%; the people who hold the bonds longer receive the higher interest rate.

Another Salida resident asked a question about a Mello Roos meeting they had attended approximately eight years ago where they were told that their Mello Roos tax obligation could be shortened by six years. Ms. Meredith replied that she was likely the person who told them that at the meeting, but that she would have said they had great hopes to eliminate the tax earlier than 2030 and retire the bonds early via refinancing. Last year, the SAPFFA board was faced with the decision as to whether to retire the bonds early or lower the tax and give relief to the taxpayers through a reduced rate. The SAPFFA board decided to go with “giving relief today”. Another attendee asked why this wasn't put to a vote of the people? Ms. Meredith replied that the officials elected to the various boards were the ones who made the decision, and the decision is made by those elected officials and not put to a vote of the people.

Ms. Meredith also shared that Village I in pays more taxes than Salida does because there are three Mello Roos districts in Village I and Salida only has one. The City of Modesto has two of the Mello Roos districts in Village I and the schools have one. The third Mello Roos district in Village I is for operations and is going on in perpetuity and collects money every year via property taxes.

The next question was whether Mello Roos taxes become delinquent when a home is foreclosed on? Ms. Meredith replied that delinquency rates have actually gone down because the banks who own the home then pay the taxes. The delinquency rate on uncollected Mello Roos taxes was just a little over 1%.

The next question posed was whether Salidan's taxes would change by the annexation of Salida by the City of Modesto or the incorporation of Salida as a city? Ms. Meredith replied that in either scenario, this debt does not go away, it stays the same. The attendee followed that with a question as to if Salida were annexed, would Salidans have to pay taxes to the City of Modesto on top of Mello Roos. Ms. Meredith replied that she could not answer that, that's a question for the Mayor of Modesto. At this point, Supervisor Terry Withrow answered this question saying that the, “Mello Roos taxes are not an additional tax. If the Mello Roos taxes hadn't existed, all of your houses in the Mello Roos district would have cost more, which means your loans would have been more.”

The next question posed by a Salidan was whether there would be additional projects added to Salida's Mello Roos district and Ms. Meredith responded that, “No, all projects authorized in 1988 have been completed. There can be no additional projects.”

The next to last question was, “Why does the Mello Roos increase by 2% per year?” Ms. Meredith said that in the formation documents, the Mello Roos was allowed to increase by 2% per year to make up for those things like inflation. If a project isn't built yet, then the cost is estimated. But since Salida's projects are all done, and with the bonds being refinanced, there will be no further 2% increases for Salidans' Mello Roos. The taxes will stay at a level tax until 2030 unless the bonds are refinanced again. The last question was, “How much does it cost to administer our Mello Roos tax?” and the answer was $15,000 for staff time of the three officers and an additional cost for a special tax consultant, Goodwin Consulting. This cost has gone down because the projects are all done.

Link for more information and financial data on SAPFFA

Salida Annexation Issue Update and Supervisor District 3 Report
Councilmember Brad Johnson opened with a "straw poll" asking attendees to raise their hands if they were in favor of Salida being annexed by the City of Modesto and two people raised their hands. He then asked how many were opposed and the majority of attendees raised their hands (between 40-50 people). An attendee asked that next time, Councilmember Johnson should also ask for a show of hands for those who are undecided. Councilmember Katherine Borges shared that Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh would be hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, November 3 from 10 am to noon at the Senior Citizens Center at 211 Bodem, Modesto.

Supervisor Terry Withrow shares a map and
the history of the Salida Community Plan.
Supervisor Terry Withrow reported that the Goodwin Consulting cost-sharing feasibility study contracted by the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County would not be returned until mid-December. The sixty days for the return of the study didn't start until Goodwin received all the information from the city and county. Supervisor Withrow said that if the city and county are able to come to a tax-sharing agreement, then they'll come to Salida and ask what Salida wants to do. He asked for patience until they obtain the information from the study. Supervisor Withrow then shared a map and the history of 'Salida Now' which the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors passed in 2007. He said that Measure E, also passed that year which prevents additional houses being built without a vote of the people. He then shared more of the background of the Salida Community Plan which called for 5,000 new homes to be built, which in turn, could provide the funds for Salida to become incorporated. But the economy collapsed and “...the model on which the plan was based on said it would collapse if the price of houses dropped 15%.” He said, “That as it stands right now, this is Salida's plan, this is Salida's future. This development will someday happen. The people who own this land have 20 years to make this thing happen.”

Supervisor Withrow reiterated, “You guys elected me, hired me basically, you're my bosses. And what I think you've hired me to do is get information for you. You guys don't have time to do that. That's why I'm there. I go down to the county and I work on all this stuff and I come back with all the facts and present it to you. And then I'll give you suggestions as to what I think is the best way to go because its all about getting the lifestyle here in Salida better, and improve services. You tell me what you want to do and I work to make that happen.”

An attendee mentioned that the land Costco and Kaiser are were annexed by Modesto, what's to stop Modesto from continuing to annex more land from Salida? Supervisor Withrow replied that it was his fear that Modesto will pick Salida apart until Salida ends up being the biggest county pocket in the county.

Supervisor Withrow suggested that if the annexation goes through, that Salida have its own planning commission to control its growth. This has been done across the state in cities which have planning commissions specifically for an area. That way, an area can be represented, but it still ultimately goes to a city council still. He said if it goes that far, he wants, “Salida to have its own planning commission to control its own destiny, as far as growth, development and zoning.”

A Salida resident asked Supervisor Withrow if while we are waiting for the Goodwin study results were we at risk of LAFCO annexing away more land from Salida? The Supervisor replied that no, because there are two other county supervisors who serve on the board of LAFCO and since Salida is Supervisor Withrow's district, they will go with what he wants which is what the people want.

The next resident proposed the formation of a steering committee to investigate the potential for Salida to incorporate and asked the Supervisor if he would support that? He replied in the affirmative. He said that incorporation has been studied, will be looked at, and will be presented. Another attendee asked who would present this information, and Supervisor Withrow responded that he would and possibly elected members of Salida Fire and Salida MAC. This was followed by a question for the Supervisor as to whether the planning commission for Salida could still be formed even if Salida stays county and Supervisor Withrow responded that it was possible.

Link to view the Salida Community Plan

Salida MAC Council Discussion
Councilmember Brad Johnson brought up that annexation to Modesto would mean that Salidans would have a utility tax in addition to their Mello Roos and other existing property taxes.

Salida MAC Council Chairman Thomas Reeves brought up that since the December meeting falls on Christmas Day would any councilmembers be opposed to canceling it. All agreed to cancel it and Chairman Reeves said that he could always call an emergency meeting if need be.

Councilmember Ana Rocha San-Nicholas requested a presentation by LAFCO. The board agreed to invite LAFCO to the next meeting.

Councilmember Katherine Borges reported on the City-County Liaison Meeting she attended on October 8 because the Salida Annexation was on the agenda. She shared that the first part of the meeting was about the incorporation of county islands within Modesto and how any unincorporated county islands (including Salida) that are annexed into the city have to be voted upon by Modesto residents via a Measure M vote which extends sewer service to those areas. During the part regarding the Salida Annexation, she relayed that Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh wants to do an Advisory Vote on the annexation and is asking for 60% of Salida's registered voters would have to vote no before he would agree to stop the annexation process whereas with a binding petition, only 51% would have to sign the petition to stop the annexation. An advisory vote is non-binding so technically, Modesto could choose to proceed with the annexation irregardless.

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 7 p.m. At the Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library Community Room, 4835 Sisk Road, Salida.

FEATURED SPEAKER: LAFCO Director, Marjorie Blom will present “LAFCO 101”

Salida MAC meetings are broadcast on government cable channel 19 in Salida and channel 7 in Modesto on Saturdays at 11 am.

Be sure to "LIKE" Salida MAC on
Facebook and follow on Twitter to keep apprised of the latest information about Salida.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Salida MAC Newsletter - October 2012

NOTE: So much content and information was shared at our September 2012 Salida MAC meeting that I decided to compile it on a blog because there's no way all of this info could fit into our printed newsletter. ~ Editor, Katherine Borges

Supervisor District 3 Report and Salida Annexation UpdateStanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow reported that as of September 25, they were about 15 days into the 60 days for the contracted term of the Goodwin Consulting Fiscal Feasibility Study and then the city and county will decide if they can come to a cost-sharing agreement. He reiterated that he supports Salida's citizens and “will not push anything that isn't what Salida wants”. Supervisor Withrow then gave a brief history of the Salida Community Plan.

An attendee asked if Salida MAC had a copy of the "Seven Questions" public information request regarding the annexation. The "Seven Questions" is posted at this link. Be sure to read this document to learn how the annexation would change the terms of the Salida Community Plan.

Supervisor Withrow shared that he attended a meeting last week with City of Modesto officials including Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh and several county employees and he stated that he felt good about the meeting and told the mayor that, "I'm not gonna push this, I'm not going to make this happen if the people of Salida don't want it." He said the mayor "agreed 100%" and that he wouldn't push it either. Another Supervisor who was at the meeting, Dick Monteith, shared Supervisor Withrow's concerns about not forcing anything upon the people of Salida that they don't want.

An attendee asked the Supervisor how we can stop Modesto from "picking at us" (annexing chunks of land) in the meantime.  Supervisor Withrow replied that any land annexations have to go through and be approved by LAFCO -Local Agency Formation Commission

In wrapping up his report, Supervisor Withrow also shared how he preserved funds in the county's budget that had been set aside for a future park in Salida. Meeting attendees showed their appreciation with a round of applause.

SF Shakes performer at Salida
Park during
Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library Report - Diane Bartlett, Library Branch Manager for the Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library shared information on the "Love Salida" project for the library and announced that the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival will perform parts of 'A Midsummer's Night's Dream' at Salida Park and again at the Salida Library on November 7 at 3:45 pm. A Q&A with the cast will be offered after at 4:45 pm. Rehearsals for Salida's very own production of 'A Midsummer's Night's Dream' will begin on November 26. The company is looking for Salidans to perform in the play to culminate in a performance on December 8. So if you're a Salida resident who would like to be in the play or have a special skill like painting, sewing, dancing, singing, juggling or can play an instrument, please contact Diane at the library or call Carl at (415) 865-4423 for more details.

Fire Department Report – Tom Burns, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Salida Fire District and member of the Board of Directors for the Modesto Regional Fire Authority said it been a little over a year since Salida Fire District, City of Modesto Fire Department, and Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services combined to form Modesto Regional Fire Authority. It is not, as it is commonly thought around the Salida community, a bigger Modesto Fire Department, nor is it that the Modesto Fire Department has taken over the Salida Fire Department, it is actually a brand new stand-alone agency. The volunteer firefighters in the Salida District are now referred to as “Reserves” instead of “Volunteers”. Salida has twelve active Reserve Firefighters. They not only respond to calls in Salida now, but throughout the whole regional fire district. The Reserve Firefighters now serve in several stations including ones in south Modesto and on the west side. They are looking to expanding additional reserves. 

The Modesto Regional Fire Authority is looking to expand on down the road and other agencies have expressed interest in joining. The fire station (#14) on Ciccarelli Road is currently being used as a training center but is not staffed. It may be staffed when the construction on the Kiernan ramps begins as its unknown how the station on Broadway (#12) will be affected by the construction.  The Modesto Regional Fire Authority holds monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of the month at the City-County chambers 1010 10th Street, Modesto at 1:30 pm and the public is welcome to attend.

CHP Report - CHP Officer Chuck Leon reported that there were 7 auto collisions in the Salida area; 3 were hit and run and 2 were injury. No major injuries. CHP did capture and arrest one of the hit and run suspects. Two DUI arrests in Salida. Since school has started, the CHP has received 10 active traffic complaints for the entire county and 8 of those are in Salida. Officer Leon asked that when dropping off school-age children, do not park in the red zones around the schools when picking up your children. He gave warnings but will issue citations next. Even if you're sitting in your car. He also asked that parents not park on the apex of the curb blocking wheelchair access, or park in front of or in people's driveways.

Sheriff Department Report - Deputy Jeff Crowley is the Salida Community Deputy, but Sheriff Christianson has taken him away from patrolling Salida and teamed him up with three other deputies from Empire, Keyes, and Denair as a crime reduction team. The four deputies work together as a team in the communities doing special tasks such as probation and parole searches. Deputy Crowley also handles the Neighborhood Watch program for Salida along with school safety programs. He addressed the issue of non-residents conducting criminal activities and leaving refuse in Salida's Countrystone Park. Deputy Crowley asked residents to step-up and establish neighborhood watch programs. Contact him at the Sheriff's Department to set one up. Salida shares patrolling deputies with Del Rio so if you would like to request more deputy coverage for Salida contact Sheriff Christianson 

Salida Sanitary Board Report - Salida Sanitary Board member, Brad Johnson, reported that the board is exploring solar energy options to reduce the energy costs of operating the plant and the pumps. The public is invited to attend Salida Sanitary's board meetings which are on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 6 pm at the Sanitary District headquarters.

Discussing solar energy prompted an attendee to bring up the point that solar panels can be put on a home for free or next to nothing in areas covered by PG&E but that MID will not allow such a program. It was recommended that citizens who want this program to contact MID Board Member, Paul Warda who covers Salida for assistance.

Salida Union School District Superintendent Twila Tosh
addresses attendees at the Salida MAC meeting
Salida Union School District Report - Salida Union School District Superintendent, Twila Tosh shared that the district is in the process of looking for some federal bond dollars for modernization funds through a non-taxable bond with a low interest rate. The school district is also exploring solar options to save money on energy costs. The school district is adopting a new program similar to Crime Stoppers called "Students Speaking Out" where students can text, e-mail or phone in any kind of a disturbance, or are being bullied and otherwise harmed in any way they can contact the program anonymously. If the offender is prosecuted, the student can receive a reward. Ms. Tosh also addressed some questions from the last Salida MAC meeting regarding the potential annexation of Salida by the City of Modesto. The first question was how the annexation would affect the school district and Ms. Tosh replied that it wouldn't affect the school district; that it would remain a separate district just as Sylvan or Stanislaus Union are separate school districts. 

The next question that Ms. Tosh addressed is "Why isn't Gregori High named Salida High?" and its because Salida Union School District is an elementary district and not a high school district. Salida Union is licensed as a K-8th school district. She shared the history of how Jackson School District merged with Salida's in 1949 and became the Salida Union Elementary School District and has remained the same since. Salida does not have enough students that matriculate from 8th grade to a 9th grade classroom to run a comprehensive high school.

Ms. Tosh also addressed that Dena Boer School and Salida Middle School did receive Mello Roos tax dollars; about 30% and the Modesto School District received about 20% of Salida's Mello Roos dollars towards funding the high school.

An attendee asked how are the schools' scores. Ms. Tosh replied that Sisk School is over  800 on its API. Salida Elementary is in the mid-700's and SMS and Dena Boer are in the high 700's. Ms. Tosh shared that the elementary and middle schools provide music classes, art and field trips which many schools no longer offer.
Salida MAC Councilmember Karen Gorne
volunteering at Love Salida

Two final agenda items - signs for Salida MAC for meeting announcements. Councilmember Brad Johnson offered to pay for the signs. The other agenda item was to ask Supervisor Withrow's assistance to get back the Friday 8 pm time slot on cable TV for Salida MAC broadcasts.

We thank all who attended the meeting and hope you will attend future meetings and continue to communicate your community concerns.

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 7 pm at Salida Library Community Room

FEATURED SPEAKER: Becky Meredith from Modesto City Schools will address Mello Roos

Salida MAC meetings are broadcast on government cable channel 19 in Salida and channel 7 in Modesto on Saturdays at 11 am. 

Be sure to "LIKE" Salida MAC on Facebook and follow on Twitter to keep apprised of the latest information about Salida.