Opinion: Service district most efficient form of Rossmoor government

Eric Christensen

Orange County LAFCO commissioned a case study of potential shared services among the city of Seal Beach, the city of Los Alamitos and the unincorporated area of Rossmoor as a “50,000 foot level ‘snapshot’ of the opportunities and constraints involved in the theoretical consolidation (quoting the Case Study) of these entities into what some have called a “Super City.”

While I have major misgivings about the accuracy and completeness of the data used and the methodology employed, the Shared Services Case Study dated June 18, 2011 and prepared by GST Consulting for Orange County LAFCO clearly shows one thing—for local government, the Rossmoor CSD is the most efficient and least costly form of government.

Using 2010/2011 Fiscal Year figures from each entity, the Case Study reports the annual expenditures for each entity as follows:  (1) Seal Beach, population 24,168, annual expenditures $27,121,400, per capita expenditures $1,122; (2) Los Alamitos, population 11,449, annual expenditures $10,474,495, per capita expenditures $915; and Rossmoor, population 10,244, CSD expenditures $1,110,545 plus County Rossmoor expenditures $1,461,000, total Rossmoor expenditures $2,562,545, per capita expenditures $250.

Of course, there are many differences between cities and unincorporated areas that may affect these numbers.

And Rossmoor has only a handful of businesses, a smaller geographic footprint, less traffic and less crime.  But clearly, the differences are staggering.

And the cost difference for Seal Beach is even more pronounced when it is realized that over 9,000 residents in Seal Beach are in the private, gated Leisure World with its own security force, which requires far less services from Seal Beach than the balance of their residents do.

Another interesting set of figures presented in the Case Study relate to police services.

Seal Beach reports a police services staff of 51 with annual expenditures of $9,106,700, per capita expenditures of $377.  Los Alamitos has a police services staff of 27 with annual expenditures of $4,941,393, per capita expenditures of $432.  The Orange County Sheriff services Rossmoor with a staff of 6 with annual expenditures of $1,235,500, per capita expenditures of $121.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is 3.5 times less expensive per capita providing police services to Rossmoor than the Los Alamitos Police Department is in providing police services to Los Alamitos.

And in Seal Beach, if Leisure World is excluded in calculating the per capita cost (since they have their own security and the Seal Beach police do not patrol in Leisure World), the per capita cost jumps to $607, or 5 times the per capita cost in Rossmoor.

Of course, there are levels of service, geographic and other considerations to take into account, but even considering these, it is clear from this report how much more cost effective the Orange County Sheriff is.  And in Rossmoor, we have been very satisfied with the excellent service the Orange County Sheriff deputies have provided our community.

Not included in the Case Study, but absolutely relevant to this subject, is the pension liability for each of these entities.  Let’s look at the Rossmoor CSD first, because it is the easiest.  The RCSD has NO funded or unfunded pension liability.  The few Rossmoor CSD employees are paid a salary, but have not and do not receive any pension benefits.  There is no future financial liability “cloud” hanging over Rossmoor.

On the other hand, in Seal Beach and Los Alamitos, as reported in other media, based on estimates from the California Department of Finance as of Jan. 1, 2011, the unfunded pension liability of each entity was:  Seal Beach with an unfunded pension liability of $19,956,173, or $826 per capita; and Los Alamitos with an unfunded pension liability of $13,954,596, or $1,216 per capita.

Finally, when comparing the services and costs of the services provided by each entity, it should be remembered that Seal Beach has the highest Utility User Tax allowed in the state of California, 11 percent, and Los Alamitos has a 6 percent  Utility User Tax.

Rossmoor residents pay NO Utility User Tax.

As a strong advocate of local government, it is comforting to know that our own Rossmoor Community Services District, supplemented by Orange County services, is so cost effective.  It amazes me that our Supervisor John Moorlach, our direct, elected county representative, who is supposedly a conservative, fiscal Republican and a CPA with a strong fiscal background, fails to understand this simple fact.

He is actively trying to drive Rossmoor into the arms of Los Alamitos against our wishes or consolidating us all together into an even bigger, more costly entity.  And I always thought the job description of elected representatives was to understand the needs and wishes of their constituency and then to represent their constituency and its needs and wishes.

Eric Christensen is a longtime resident of Rossmoor and a member of the Rossmoor Preservation Committee.