Nipomo Incorporation--Where Do We Go From Here?
The most critical finding of the Davis Company is summarized on page one of Mr. Davis' cover letter:
"In general, however, most of the $720,000 amount that was originally projected from Vehicle License Fees has now been eliminated from the revenue estimates for the new city. Only a residual estimate of $61,000 remains. The change means that the fiscal viability of incorporation is well beyond the three – five year period originally estimated. For example, current estimates indicate that, in the year 2008, a new city would still be almost $600,000 short of breaking even."
Mr. Davis goes into greater detail in his report about the VLF issues, and why we are now in a situation, that did not exist in November 2004, when the first version of Mr. Davis' report was released. Assuming Mr. Davis' research to be reliable and his prognostications to be accurate, based on his own conclusions:
These recent policy changes, if unchanged, are likely to put off Nipomo incorporation for a period of seven to ten more years.
Mr. Davis' initial projections, in November, 2004 was that Nipomo's incorporation was at least three to five years in the future. Now, he believes incorporation is between seven to 10 years away. Since the incorporation process, even if started today, would take two to three years, no matter what the immediate fiscal feasibility, Cityhood is still several years in the future.
The question is where do we go from here? The answer, I believe lies northward, and inward. The Cambria CSD is also contemplating incorporation. I recently spoke with Tammy Rudock, General Manager for the Cambria CSD about their incorporation process.
In order to gauge and garner public support for Cambria's incorporation, the Cambria CSD board of directors has appointed a public panel (of 10) consisting of volunteers from Cambria's citizenry to oversee their incorporation process, in conjunction with their incorporation consultant, Andy Belnap associated with Management Partners. Mr. Belnap guides the citizens' group in this process. This panel, under Belnaps' guidance reports directly to Ms. Rudock and the CSD board. Interestingly, the Cambria CSD anticipates paying (up to $150,000) for the comprehensive fiscal feasibility study required by LAFCO, assuming there is enough community support to petition LAFCO to begin the formal process. This will be a hugh advantage for the Cambria community in its incorporation drive, assuming they decide to move forward. According to Ms. Ruduck, the primary rationale in Cambria for incorporation is to assume all land use and planning decisions from the county, in order to better control their destiny. This is the same rationale here in Nipomo.
Of course Cambria's initial feasibility study was much different from Nipomo's. Cambria has the opposite problem than Nipomo--they are too feasible, while we are not yet feasible. As a result, Cambria, according to Ms. Rudock, and initial discussions with the county is looking at $2.2 million dollars in revenue neutrality payments for as yet an undetermined number of years.
While Nipomo is not yet fiscally feasible for incorporation, we are in a better position than Cambria, because we are on the correct side of the revenue neutrality equation, and probably will be for the next few years; however, if Nipomo's incorporation is to succeed, we need to follow Cambria's example, and look inward as well to see whether enough community support exists for success.
The NCSD cannot sustain the incorporation burden alone. They do not have the manpower, either in board members or staff. And, as the current board points out, there needs to be much greater community support. I believe Nipomo's current incorporation movement is at a cross roads. We can build on the work our CSD board has accomplished, or we can let the incorporation dialogue dissolve into the background, and perhaps reinvent the wheel again several years or decades down the road. Years and decades that San Luis Obispo County will continue to make, implement and enforce planning and land use decisions by people who do not live here, work here, have any roots here in Nipomo, or are accountable in anyway to Nipomo's citizens.
If we are to keep Nipomo's incorporation movement moving forward, I believe we need a similar citizen's panel to Cambria's. The community needs to demonstrate its support, or we need to remain under county control for land use and planning decisions for the indefinite future.
I have spoken with or exchanged emails with several individuals in the community about Nipomo's incorporation. Many have expressed interest in keeping the issue alive. With the current explosion in commercial development in Nipomo, such a citizen's panel could and should continue to update the Davis report, and keep the CSD board current. The revenues not yet accounted for in the current Davis report may make incorporation feasible more quickly than the 7 to 10 year projections; however, we will need some mechanism to do this. We need to stay on this side of the revenue neutrality equation, while monitoring our fiscal feasibility. There is also legislative action in the works in an effort to correct the inequalities of the current legislation that leaves new cities out of the VLF mix.
If any individuals are interested in becoming more involved at this time, perhaps volunteering for a citizen's panel or committee, please call or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is enough community support for this proposition, then I think we should call on the NCSD to appoint a committee similar to Cambria's, to assist them further in Nipomo's incorporation drive. If there is not enough or any support, then I think the NCSD and community needs to know that as well.
One final thought: Cambria has set another example we should heed here in Nipomo. Sometime in the mid 80's Cambria paid for its first preliminary feasibility study. That study showed Cambria was fiscally feasible to incorporate at that time; however, the CSD never followed up on that analysis. Years went by, then decades. Now, Cambria finds itself on the wrong side of the revenue neutrality equation and is looking at an approximate $2 million dollar ransom each year, for who knows how long. Goleta, our neighbor to the South, similarly ended up on the wrong end of revenue neutrality for their delay in getting serious about incorporation. Let's not repeat that same mistake in Nipomo.