Wednesday, September 21, 2016

More time for Harbor District: San Mateo County to delay, possibly suspend analysis of dissolution of special tax district

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has agreed to give the Harbor District at least two years to get its finances in order before deciding whether to conduct an analysis into dissolving the special tax district.

The San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury has urged supervisors to conduct an analysis into dissolution almost immediately but Tuesday the board amended its response letter to the grand jury indicating that an analysis “may” rather than “will” be implemented after fiscal year 2017-18, according to the Harbor District’s General Manager Steve McGrath.

McGrath and Tom Mattusch, president of the Harbor District Board of Commissioners, attended Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting and asked that the response letter be pulled from the consent agenda to allow for public comment.

The board allowed it and ultimately softened its response by amending a few lines in the letter indicating that a county analysis of the Harbor District is a possibility rather than a certainty in about two years.

“The county is recognizing the district’s near-term performance improvements. They have noticed the progress. In the meantime, we will continue to work and improve the district,” McGrath said.

The agency for the first time has separated its budget into how its enterprise and non-enterprise revenue are spent.

The county, in its response, said the district should be given at least two more years “until an accurate fiscal accounting of enterprise and non-enterprise activities can be conducted.”

“They’ve done better. There is a focus now on capital improvement projects and I credit the general manager for the progress and Mattusch has shown good leadership,” said Supervisor Don Horsley, whose District 3 covers the coast.

The district relies on about $5 million in property taxes and raises the rest of its money by renting boat slips and from other leases at Oyster Point Marina/Park in South San Francisco and Pillar Point Harbor on the coast. The district owns Pillar Point Harbor and operates the marina at Oyster Point under a joint powers agreement with South San Francisco.

The grand jury released a report in June titled “The San Mateo County Harbor District: The Price of Dysfunction is Rising.”

It notes that County Manager John Maltbie stated that the county would “undertake a comprehensive analysis of all aspects of the district” if dissolution was recommended by the Local Agency Formation Commission.

LAFCo recommended last year that the Harbor District be dissolved. A previous grand jury in 2014 reported that the Harbor District should also be dissolved.

The latest grand jury report indicates the county has made no moves to analyze whether the district should be dissolved and taken over by another agency.

“The grand jury recommends that the Board of Supervisors look beyond any attempts by the Harbor District to improve operations and calls for the county to commence by Sept. 30, 2016, its promised analysis of dissolving the district. Such analysis should be completed within six months and be presented to the public at a regular board meeting,” the grand jury reported in June.

But that analysis was pushed back at least two years Tuesday and may never take place, according to the board’s response letter.

“It should be noted that the district has paid off all debt, identified adequate reserves and developed a five-year capital improvement plan for maintenance of and improvements to district facilities. Given the ... improvements, the county believes, at a minimum, that compiling two years of accurate fiscal data is necessary to adequately review district operations, efficiencies and cost allocations,” according to the response letter to the grand jury.

Grand jury recommendations must be responded to but are not mandates and do not have to be followed.

September 21, 2016
By Bill Silverfarb, Daily Journal


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