This past Tuesday, a meeting was held at the headquarters of the Humboldt County Services District to discuss a Traffic Impact Fee for the “Greater Eureka Area.” You can read the report provided by TJKM, a consultant firm hired jointly by the City of Eureka and the County of Humboldt, here.
Now, there are a lot of issues with the draft report on the impact fee (or GEATIF) that you can find on the County’s Land Use website. We talked about a few of them on the day of the meeting, and believe us – the problems don’t stop there. But before we get into how the County is seriously screwing over both developers and the general public with the traffic impact fee, let’s look at yet another brilliant move our County Supervisors made on Tuesday at their regularly scheduled Board meeting.
From their discussion of the 2015-2016 mid-year budget review (which you should watch in its entirety just to grasp the dire economic situation Humboldt is in, along with our Supervisors’ sheer inability to handle the problems), THC thought this little footnote was really interesting:
Yes, that’s right – $2 million of the funds raised by Measure Z in its first year went unspent. As in, we got hosed and overtaxed to the tune of $2 million dollars. As in, rather than use that $2 million dollars to fix things that need fixing now, the Supes decided to just roll it over into next year.
That’s $2,000,000 of tax payers’ money that was just sitting around, unused, in the County coffers. Now, we’d generally hop on the “what about a frickin’ refund train?”, but we recognize that there is a ton of good that could be done with that money at this very moment, and we wish that something productive had been done with it.
And while we’re speaking of money that’s just sitting around in one of the County’s accounts, let’s talk about the $500,000 gift the County gave to themselves in a transfer from the County Motor Pool to the Aviation fund. This was pointed out to us by Humboldt’s most stalwart airport watchdog, Rick O., and was also first reported on by the Honorable John Chiv in this post from February 6th. Also taken from the Board’s February 9th meeting, this excerpt describes the transfer (THC’s emphasis added in bold):
3530 – Aviation Enterprise Fund The Aviation Enterprise Fund began this fiscal year with a negative fund balance of ($674,128). It should be noted that the fund received a $500,000 loan from Motor Pool in the current fiscal year to assist with cash flow. This loan will contribute the negative fund balance resulting in a negative balance of $1.2 million at the end of FY 2015-16. The department now estimates that the negative fund balance may be even larger due to decreased federal reimbursement for security services from the Transportation Security Administration and unanticipated employee related expenses. Based on the 5 Year Financial Forecast that was before your Board on February 2 the Aviation Fund has an ongoing annual structural deficit of over $500,000.
So, basically, the Aviation Fund is hemorrhaging over $500,000 dollars per year. Apparently, the Board thought it would be good to transfer half of a million dollars into the Aviation account as a stop gap measure, which puts Aviation in the red to the tune of over $1,200,000 at the end of this fiscal year.
Before your head explodes trying to wrap your brain around those accounting strategies, consider this – why the hell are we so often reminded of budget “shortfalls” when there is $500,000 dollars sitting around? Apparently there wasn’t such a critical need for that $500k in the motor pool, after all.
What’s just as troubling is the thought that the County is either lying to us when they say they are exhausting their options to creatively find ways to lessen our budget deficit, or they are just too damn stupid and inefficient to realize they had that extra money laying around. And THC can absolutely guarantee you this – if there was that much money laying around in the Motor Pool, there is even more money elsewhere in the County’ budget that can be re-purposed.
Now, back to the traffic impact fee. We will give the County and City a temporary pass on completely ripping the proposed impact fee draft at this moment in hopes that they use their opportunity to revise the impact fee.
But we will highlight this tidbit from the report:
Yep, the County and the City of Eureka are looking to saddle developers with just under $5.5 million in mitigation costs. (THC is of the opinion that the fees proposed in the GEATIF report are not unfair – but we’re also of the opinion that the County’s/City’s plans for implementing the fees, as well as their projections for growth and the money that the impact fees will bring, must have been conceived while huffing the fumes from the butane hash-oil extraction plant they’re building down by the bay.)
Now, the funny thing about that $5.5 million is this – on the same day that the County announced they’d need $5.5 million to offset the impact of future development over the next 20 years, they also announced they have a surplus of $2.5 million right now. If nothing else, the County could bank that $2.5 million and reduce the scope and cost of the impact fee program. And we all know that is probably one of the worst possible uses of the money – but at least it would be something!
Just think – a plan that could potentially save the public $2.5 million dollars in taxes. (Or “fees” – otherwise known as taxes.) Of course, that would represent financial foresight and a desire to not rob the public even more. And we all know that neither the County of Humboldt nor the City of Eureka have either of those in their bank accounts.