Candidates discuss disincorporation issue

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Jordan Ehrenkranz, Larry Greene, Randy Bonner, George Middle and Dave Eilers are the five candidates running for City Council. Jordan is the only incumbent on the list. The other candidates, with the exception of Larry Greene, have previously served on the City Council or the CLPOA Board of Directors.

The general election will take place on November 8. All Canyon Lake citizens registered to vote are eligible to vote for candidates to fill the three available seats on City Council.

In The Friday Flyer’s weekly Q&A series that began on September 23, residents have had the chance to learn how much the candidates understand about the City’s current and future challenges, what each candidate hopes to accomplish if elected to serve a four-year term on City Council and where they stand on fire safety and BLM land development.

In this week’s Q&A, The Friday Flyer asked candidates to explain their thought on the possibility of City disincorporation. Last week, candidates were listed in reverse order according to their last names. This week, candidates are listed in alphabetical order according to their first names.

Question:

In 400 or fewer words, please explain your thoughts on disincorporation.

cand1-1David Eilers

I’m all about keeping Canyon Lake a city! Disincorporation is a bad word to me. At the Meet the Candidate’s forum, the same question was asked and it was unanimous among the candidates that no one was in favor of disincorporation. Only after all other efforts to keep Canyon Lake a city have been exhausted, would I ever even consider disincorporation.

The Utility User Tax (UUT) doesn’t expire until December 31, 2020. The new City Council will need to make the best decisions regarding the needs of the community and keeping Canyon Lake a city.

cand1-2George Middle

To disincorporate or not to disincorporate, that is the question!

People, read the notes provided by John Knox and Chris Hutchinson called “Municipal Disincorporation in California.” The laymen reading will then understand the complexity of the process.

A point to note is that 25 percent-plus of the city’s registered voters must sign the petition of disincorporation.California law for this high financial procedure of disincorporating a city involves four stages.

  • Initiation of proceedings
  • Consideration by the Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO)
  • Election
  • Completion of proceedings

LAFCO has a significant authority and discretion over both the process and the substance of the proposal, with power to condition its approval on a “virtual limitless array of factors.”

Now to Canyon Lake City Disincorporation.

First, does the City have funds to do its duties as a city in California and Riverside County?   The Utility Tax was approved at 3.95 percent by very few votes and voted for on the premise of paying for security and fire services. This money, now paid into the City’s general fund, should be accumulating in a reserve account to be used for the objective we voted for?

The City has to pay for 24/7 external services, currently provided by Riverside County Fire and Riverside Sheriff’s Perris Police.

It is my understanding that, without the utility tax, we cannot consider ever opening up Station 60. And that probably an increase will have to be approved to open up with the currently mandated manpower by CalFire and the Riverside County Supervisors.

We can open up the station as long as we change the service model to a paramedic station only. My calculations show that the current Utility User Tax level will pay for this station 24/7, but is contingent on the citizens continuing the current level of UUT. Covering the low level of fire call needs can be negotiated with Riverside County.

Therefore, it is my belief we do not have to go through disincorporation as long as we accept this new “paramedic model” that meets our demands for medical emergency service. Contact me on gmiddle@ca.rr.com for an attachment that discusses this paramedic station in Canyon Lake.

Disincorporation will put us under Riverside County unincorporated land areas. They will provide service using the same inefficient safety model currently provided: fire vehicles followed by AMR ambulance for medical emergency.

cand1-3Jordan Ehrenkranz

DISincorporation is not a word that I would ever consider when it  comes to the future of our City. Our City is beginning to rebound and our reserves are continuing to grow. Any  word that begins with DIS is usually used in a negative way. It would certainly be a DISappointment to our  founding fathers to attempt to DISband what they worked on very hard to accomplish 25 years ago.

We  need to DISplay patience with regard to our future, and not let the negative DIStraction deter us  from the work that is before us. There is much to do before we start a DIScussion to DIScontinue all the  wonderful services that our City provides to its residents – such as local control led by a council elected directly by its residents, the council adopting its own rules and regulations based on input from the community,  priorities for police and fire safety services are determined by the council, along with adopting ordinances related to land use regulations, building permits, business applications and street improvements.

If Canyon Lake ceases to be its own City, it will be governed by the Riverside Board of Supervisors or will be annexed into the City of Lake Elsinore or the City of Menifee and would be governed by the existing city council of the respective city.

The City we know today would DISappear and, to me, that would be a DISplay or DISrespect and I DISapprove. We need to show more DIScipline when it comes to  governing our City and avoid any DIScomfort to our citizens and gain the trust of those who elected us and not DIStrust. If we all work together we can avoid this word known as DISincorporation, which to me would be a DISaster.

So let’s not DIScard all that has been accomplished in our great City.

cand1-4Larry Greene

I am passionate and dedicated to this community. This is why I am running for City Council. I do not support disincorporation. It is the last in a long line of steps to be taken if a community is in financial crisis. It is easier to incorporate than to disincorporate.

First, the citizens of Canyon Lake will have to vote to disincorporate. Second, all debt that is outstanding may be passed on to the Canyon Lake property owners in the form of tax bonds, which will appear on their property taxes (tax increase) until all debt is paid back.

Our City is currently in the best financial position it has been in years with no reserves drawn down. This is due in part to the UUT (Utility User Tax). Monies are being returned to the Reserve Fund for the first time in several years. Per our financial director, the current Reserve Fund balance is approximately three million dollars, which translates to nine months of operating funds.

The next four years are critical to the future of our City. We must resolve our fire and EMS situation. A response time of 12 to 15 minutes to the west side of Canyon Lake is unacceptable.

We must explore a southwest regional fire/EMS delivery system and implement this plan within the next few years. I believe law enforcement should also be a part of the regional approach. If the fire and EMS situation is not resolved, then it will be extremely difficult to ask our citizens to extend the UUT beyond the 2020 sunset.

The BLM property may be developed in the next four to five years, depending on its purchase by the City and the outcomes of impact studies. This could generate additional property tax revenue.

cand1-5Randy Bonner

My position to keep Canyon Lake as a city is well known. For the last 25 years, we’ve had the opportunities to represent the City well on the many agencies that we serve (RCA, RTA – as examples). If not a city, we would allow public safety (fire and police), BLM and roads to be negotiated on our behalf.

I believe the best way to respond to the question of disincorporation is from several quotations from a Commission Workshop on Municipal Disincorporation from George J. Spiliotis, Executive Director, Riverside County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

“Disincorporation can be initiated by resolution of an affected agency or by a position of landowners or registered voters. An affected agency could be the subject city, the county, or a special district whose territory or sphere of influence overlies any territory of the disincorporation city. If initiated by petition, the signature threshold for disincorporation is the highest call for in CKH, 25 percent of the registered voters or landowners, the same as that required to initiate incorporation proceedings. Disincorporation proceedings cannot be initiated by LAFCO.”

“It is imperative that the proposed successor to city services participate in the preparation of the POS (Plan of Services), regardless of how the proposal is initiated. This participation is essential, whether or not the successor favors disincorporation.”

“The plan of services should also include a financial component. It should be noted there is no statutory requirement for a disincorporation fiscal analysis. Such an analysis, however, is an important piece of information that should be considered by the successor agency and the Commission. The fiscal analysis should compare the revenues that would accrue to the successor service provider(s) to the cost of services that would be assumed. The cost should be based on the level of services that would be provided by post- disincorporation. The fiscal analysis should also identify city assets and any debt or other significant obligations incurred by the city, such as space and equipment leases, pension obligations and other contracts.”

“From the time a proposal is filed until the time is presented to the voters can take from nine months to well over a year.”

“If there are insufficient funds to pay indebtedness incurred by the city, the current statue calls for the levy of taxes on property within the former city.”

The entire workshop can be found on the Internet on Riverside County LAFCO.

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