Rossmoor board president on state of district

Alfred Coletta, president of the Rossmoor Community Services District board, is scheduled to give a “State of the District” address at the Tuesday, Jan. 10 RCSD meeting. The following is the text of that address, which was included in the meeting’s agenda package and made available to the public online.

As in 2010, calendar year 2011 began in state of economic uncertainty. The state was once again in the midst of yet another budget shortfall; property values were still in decline, local governments and school districts were initiating budget cuts and layoffs. Rossmoor, on the other hand, enjoyed another balanced budget, a healthy reserve, a robust capital improvement plan and enhanced recreation program. This was mostly due to stable housing prices and assessments in our community which increased our property tax and assessment district income.

All of this occurred while the state, county and most local governments in the county were looking at substantial declines in revenue. Orange County was particularly hard hit by the state’s takeaway of $49.5 (million) in (Vehicle License Fee) funds which should have been re-designated as General Fund monies, but were not.

Locally, the district received an unqualified audit for 2011, the highest rating possible. The board also took the unprecedented act of paying down almost a half-million dollars in Rush Park bonds, saving residents considerable principle and interest payments over the course of the repayment schedule.

At the local level, the district’s Capital Improvement Program saw several major projects completed. First, two Rossmoor Park tennis courts were reconstructed and all four were resurfaced.  Also, Field 3 at Rossmoor Park was scraped of its grass infield and filled in with “dustless dirt” by the Los Alamitos Girls Softball League.

This improvement was accomplished at no cost to the district and resulted in a reduction in field dust to the neighborhood. Several smaller projects were completed including the installation of new picnic tables to create designated spaces available for reservations by residents, the reconstruction of the horseshoe pits, installation of additional lighting at Rossmoor Park, and reconstruction of the padded mats at the Rossmoor Park tot lots.

Another major accomplishment for the year was the negotiation and board adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the LAGSL and the Rossmoor Park Neighbors. The agreement which supersedes the previous three-year MOU now sets forth all of the activity levels of the LAGSL regarding games, practices and other activities of the league on a year round basis. It gives guidance and direction to the league and provides the neighboring residents with a clear schedule of activities with a goal of minimizing the impact of neighborhood traffic, noise and congestion.

Other recreation enhancements included the scheduling of an additional concert in the park with a direction from the board for increased multi-seasonal programming to accompany the movies, Shakespeare plays and concerts.

The district’s board was heavily engaged in major community issues during the year. First was the matter of proposed annexation of the northeast corner (Rossmoor Shopping Center) and the entire of Rossmoor, which was included in the annual goals of the city of Los Alamitos.

The board conducted a heavily attended community workshop with elected representatives of Los Alamitos to inform residents about what was being contemplated, but more importantly how and when.

Residents loudly expressed their sentiments against overtures made by Los Alamitos to provide services to Rossmoor and were also adamant against the annexation of any part of Rossmoor.  The district then hired a reputable pollster to conduct phone poll of the community to determine their sentiments regarding the future governance of Rossmoor.

The results were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the status of Rossmoor as an independent unincorporated community. These results were clear evidence to the board that it should initiate several initiatives consistent with the will of our residents.

The first major initiative undertaken by the board was an expression by resolution to pursue additional latent powers for the provision of police protection services, animal care services and refuse collection services. Almost immediately there were expressions of opposition by Orange County Supervisor (John) Moorlach in both his capacity as a supervisor and chair of the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission.

Nonetheless, the district has been doing it due diligence in studying the financial implications of applying to LAFCO for these latent powers. The board requested an attorney general opinion in response to a county counsel opinion that the (Orange County Sheriff’s Department) could not withdraw core service to the district but could only request and pay for enhanced services. That AG opinion is still pending.

The district has also requested a contract proposal from the city of Long Beach for the provision of animal care services. That proposal is still pending. Further study is also required regarding the transfer of the refuse collection franchise from the county to the district.

Another initiative by the board was to oppose the annexation of the Rossmoor Shopping Center by the city of Los Alamitos. There was clear evidence that businesses or residences within the northeast corner of Rossmoor did not have any desire to become a part of Los Alamitos.

Based on that, the city of Los Alamitos suspended its initiative to annex the northeast corner of Rossmoor by tabling a proposal from City Manager Jeff Stewart for a poll of Los Alamitos residents to deal with annexation and other issues. While it is recognized that the city of Los Alamitos has an obligation to amend its General Plan to include land use planning for Rossmoor, it is not required to annex any part of Rossmoor. The board, through its Rossmoor Ad Hoc Committee, kept residents informed during the period of the pending annexation efforts of Los Alamitos. The board at its monthly meetings also received numerous reports on governance from the general manager (of Rossmoor Community Services Distrct) as a means of keeping the community apprised of developments with annexation issues.

Perhaps the most interesting development regarding the future governance of Rossmoor was the release by LAFCO of a Case Study regarding potential savings of a Super City which would include Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Rossmoor. First of all, the study was viewed as flawed and not on point with supporting or refuting the cost to the county for services to Rossmoor.

As a result the board commissioned an analysis of the study by the Harvey M. Rose Associates LLC, a reputable accounting firm with forensic capabilities. The analysis found no foundation for many of the conclusions in the Study. Moreover, there was a startling change in what had been stated as a $600,000 drain to the county for Rossmoor services to a new estimate of $124,000. There was no explanation about the cause of the reduction.

Even more startling, was the conclusion reached by the Rose analysis that using previously published numbers by the county’s auditor controller that rather than a deficit, there was a $317,400 net to the county. Further, the consultant concluded that because the cost of sheriffs services that the net gain to the county was about $500,000 or almost a $1,100,000 difference from the county’s first estimates a $600,000 drain to the county. These facts should dispel any notion that Rossmoor is a drain on the county and that well enough ought to be left alone.

Another major community concern continued with the increase in activity by coyotes in Rossmoor and its environs. Community members petitioned the district to become involved in solving the rampant coyote sightings, attacks and killing of dogs and cats.

While the district does not have the authority to be actively involved with this issue or to expend funds for this purpose it took action to direct the general manager to initiate the process for assuming latent powers for animal care. This would allow the district to directly address the issue of coyotes. The district is still performing its due diligence prior submitting a formal application to LAFCO for that power.

Service delivery to our residents was also a priority during the year. As a means of better communication with residents, the board authorized redesign of the district’s Web site which is scheduled go live very soon. When completed, residents will benefit from a modern site with an easy to navigate, industry-standard interface, filled with dynamic content services and networking capabilities.

The district has also expanded its resident e-mail database to communicate on a real time basis and to augment the district’s quarterly newsletter. Further, the district’s board meetings are now available on our Web site on via YouTube, as well as on LATV 3. Also due to the success of the district’s picnic site reservations, the board amended its policy to restrict reservations to residents, only. The demand for reservations has been overwhelming, thus the change to accommodate more of our residents.

The year ahead looks promising, once more, but not without its challenges. It remains to be seen how the plan by Los Alamitos to annex the Rossmoor Shopping Center will evolve. The receptivity of LAFCO to give thoughtful consideration to the activation of latent powers is a lingering question. Also remaining is the possibility of a contract of municipal services by the county. Further, the state’s continuing budget crises is troubling since it will most likely adversely affect the county’s finances with perhaps a ripple effect on Rossmoor.

The future of Rossmoor as an independent community will be challenged by the county and LAFCO, particularly if the Rossmoor Community Services District is not allowed to assume latent powers for certain municipal services; services provided at a local level, with less reliance on the county. Nonetheless, Rossmoor remains an efficient and stable island in the midst of a troubled sea.