NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. — Following a lawsuit settlement over a contested sphere of influence determination, the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission is mandating local government agencies increase contributions to cover litigation and ensuing expenses.
Specifically, LAFCo has ordered Nevada County, Grass Valley, Nevada City and other municipalities or special districts to increase their contributions to LAFCo by 75 percent — a directive approved as part of the interim budget update at the LAFCo commissioner’s meeting Thursday.
The increased contributions total an additional $74,000 among Grass Valley, Nevada City and Nevada County.
The budget update, which will circulate to the various agencies in the next week, is scheduled to be finalized in June, said Nevada County LAFCo Executive Director S.R. Jones.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, Nevada County contributed more than $71,000; Grass Valley contributed almost $20,000; and Nevada City contributed nearly $8,000, according to the finance departments each agency.
A 75 percent increase would raised contributions by $53,000 from the county, nearly $15,000 from Grass Valley and almost $6,000 from Nevada City.
“I don’t know where they are going to get it,” said Maryanne Hoffler, an accounting supervisor for Grass Valley. “We’re already squeezing blood out of turnips over here.”
The increase is manageable for the county, given its approximate $170 million annual budget, said Joe Christoffel, Nevada County assistant executive officer, adding the county had set funds aside in anticipation of the LAFCo contribution increase.
All 58 California counties have a LAFCo, independent regulatory commissions created by the California Legislature to act as watchdogs over the boundaries of cities and most special districts.
“Because LAFCos control local boundaries, they indirectly influence the state’s political and the physical landscape,” notes a 2003 State Legislature report on LAFCos. “Yet, very few Californians actually know who governs LAFCos.”
Primarily, LAFCos review and act on proposals to change boundaries. The local LAFCo is involved with sphere of influence and annexation considerations, currently with regard to Loma Rica and HEW developments outside Grass Valley and Nevada City, respectively.
LAFCos control nine types of boundary changes: annexations, detachments, disincorporations, dissolutions, formations, incorporations, mergers, consolidations, subsidiary districts and reorganizations.
One such determination landed Nevada County’s LAFCo in hot water in 2011.
Truckee Donner Public Utility District sued Nevada County’s LAFCo in September 2011 for its decision to minimize the sphere of influence of the Truckee Sanitary District, according to previous reports.
The suit challenged both the adequacy under the California Environmental Quality Act of LAFCo’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Report and the process of its adoption.
As part of the December 2011 settlement, LAFCo reviewed its document and concluded there were administrative procedural errors and agreed to prepare an enhanced analysis of greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, LAFCo must prepare a new EIR, which is estimated to cost $55,000.
Nevada County loaned LAFCo $50,000 for litigation expenses. In the course of litigation and regular expenses, LAFCo depleted $75,000 from its funds — leaving a $58,000 shortfall in anticipated expenditures for 2011-12 budget, according to a LAFCo report prepared for Thursday’s meeting.
At the same time, it must repay the loan to Nevada County, which LAFCo has mandated to increase its contribution to $53,000.
LAFCos are funded by contributions from the agencies for which it makes determinations, both through annual contributions based on their budgets and from fees for projects, Jones told The Union.
With the increases, Nevada County’s LAFCo total budget will be nearly $400,000, of which the largest expense — more than $182,000 (46 percent) — is allocated to the salaries of Jones, a part-time clerk and a part-time office assistant.