Critique of Super City ‘Case Study’ Part 2

Eric Christensen

Editor’s note: Last week, Eric Christensen of the Rossmoor Preservation Committee criticized a recent Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission “Case Study” that said tax payers would save money by merging Rossmoor, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach into one city. In Part 2, Christensen cites specific issues he has with the study.

On page 1, the Net Surplus/(Deficit) total shown is ($85,555). It should be a surplus of $85,555.

Also on page 1, the text below the Table states that the estimated potential savings is $2.5 million, yet the Table shows a savings of $2,756,455.

The savings is largely based on the reduction of primarily management and administrative headcount totaling 16. Yet, the totals shown for full-time headcount for the RCSD is 11, and should be six (it includes the five part-time Board members). RCSD headcount is shown at different numbers in the report. This throws into question the study’s headcount reduction conclusions.

The last paragraph on page 1 concludes, without any support, that the inclusion of Rossmoor in the “Case Study” city provides opportunities to enhance certain revenues from the state not currently received based on the added population. It is the combination of all three entities, not just the addition of Rossmoor, that is relevant. Moreover, grants typically are awarded at set levels and there is no analysis of that here. I’m not sure that Rossmoor’s 10,000 plus on top of Seal Beach plus Los Alamitos population of 35,000 adds anything material to grant opportunities. I would think if the combined entities totaled 50,000 or more, it might be significant. But this whole subject is useless with no support and just guesses.

I concur with Henry Taboada’s analysis that the “Case Study’s” decision not to include part time workers (that are 200 in Seal Beach alone) misses a significant opportunity to save costs.

The “Case Study’s” decision not to include current or future capital improvements in its analysis is significant, because these expenses are so material and may be significant inhibitors for consolidation.

The “Case Study’s” statement on page 4, “There are no new or increased taxes, fees, charges or assessments projected in the analysis” is wrong. Seal Beach has an 11 percent UUT, Los Al has a 6 percent UUT and Rossmoor has none. This issue should have at least been addressed.

The Case Study, in the Table on page 5, as well as other places, shows the net deficit for Rossmoor County services as only $124,000. This is obviously much less than Supervisor Moorlach has represented. However, it is totally useless. The “Case Study” never describes what services are included in the Rossmoor County services and provides no support for either the revenue or expense figures. They are purely estimates and as useless as everything else Rossmoor has ever received on this issue. In several places in the “Case Study,” it is noted that the increased total revenue for the “Case Study” city is due to the inclusion of Rossmoor and the expected receipt of Motor Vehicle License Fee revenue from the state. Is this still accurate?

On page 6, under Law Enforcement, the “Case Study” notes that current staffing levels and costs were unavailable from the county, and therefore an estimate was used based on 2007/2008 CFA figures with a 4 percent annual escalator. Our position is the 2007/2008 CFA numbers were questionable and no better than estimates.

On page 9, the “Case Study” notes the headcount for law enforcement.

The numbers are informative. For Seal Beach, a city with 24,000 population (of which over 9,000 is in a gated, private community patrolled by its own security force), the police department headcount is 51!

For Los Alamitos, a city with a thousand more residents than Rossmoor, the police department headcount is 27! The Sheriff services Rossmoor with a headcount listed at 6. It appears to me that each of Seal Beach and Los Alamitos could save a fortune if they contracted directly with the Sheriff for law enforcement services.

Under Conclusions, subheading “Streamline Service Delivery,” on page 11, the “Case Study” states, “Standardization of processes and policies, consolidation of maintenance planning and execution and re-evaluation of service delivery for a broader area all have the potential to reduce costs while maintaining or enhancing service delivery.”

This statement has no support and was never discussed in the Case Study. The “Case Study” addressed financial savings from consolidation, it never discussed improved service delivery. I’m not sure that either Rossmoor or Los Alamitos would agree that the planning process would be improved or streamlined if standardized on Seal Beach’s rules. This whole section should be deleted.

Under Conclusions, subheading “Constraints,” the only constraint listed is possible employee bargaining unit negotiations. This is laughable. The biggest constraint is that neither Seal Beach nor Los Alamitos has any interest in even studying this matter.

Under Conclusions, on page 12, the “Case Study” states, “Based on the information available, this ‘snapshot’ analysis concludes that a consolidation of services or agencies has some potential benefits for increasing efficiency of municipal services . . . ”

Well, consolidation may improve services.

Unfortunately, this “Case Study” never discusses the delivery of municipal services and how consolidation would improve those services.

This conclusion is not supported by anything in this Case Study. It is wholly useless and throws into question the reason this “Case Study” was ever undertaken in the first place.

Finally, the “Case Study” states in the concluding paragraph, “Lastly, a more detailed fiscal analysis of the revenues and expenditures by the county within the community of Rossmoor is needed to better understand the extent to which other unincorporated communities are subsidizing services within Rossmoor and the positive impact consolidation may have on the remaining unincorporated areas in terms of the equitable distribution of resources to the other unincorporated islands throughout the county.”

This final statement merits special consideration. The first part is absolutely true and what we’ve been requesting for years—real financial data.

The second part is a conclusion by the author that is wholly unsupported. There is no support or data that Rossmoor is getting a larger share of the Orange County General Fund than other unincorporated areas on a pro rata basis or that Rossmoor funding is in any way restricting or reducing funding to other unincorporated areas. This argument is wholly specious and grossly negligent. There is simply no support for this conclusion.

And the reasoning supporting it is flawed. One could take the position that the unincorporated islands are getting more in services than they pay for. If this is the case, the result would be that general services provided by the county to all county residents could be adversely impacted, though marginally if at all.

But to posit that Rossmoor is somehow taking money away from other unincorporated islands without a shred of proof is simply irresponsible. The author of the “Case Study” and the sponsoring organization, OC LAFCO, should be ashamed.

Eric Christensen is a longtime Rossmoor resident and a member of the Rossmoor Preservation Committee. The committee opposes both partial and complete annexation of Rossmoor by Los Alamitos.