December 12, 2013
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LAFCo Municipal Service Reviews
LAFCo Municipal Service Reviews
San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury finds that LAFCo has not been diligent
in its pursuit of service efficiencies and economies available to taxpayers
in San Mateo County. LAFCo Board members all have a personal interest
in the districts and services under review, so the idea of capturing service
efficiencies and economies, while legally mandated, is politically difficult.
The Grand Jury makes
six recommendations to save taxpayer dollars. These include asking the
LAFCo commission to set a policy that it will actively pursue implementation
of the recommendations that arise from its studies, accelerating the time
frame of the studies, performing the studies in a manner meaningful to
the taxpayers, and asking the Board of Supervisors to support their efforts.
Issue: Has San Mateo County LAFCo proactively identified opportunities for local agency economies or efficiencies, including, as appropriate, consolidation or elimination of special districts, or city annexations?
agency formation commissions were established by the State in 1963 as
the local point of review and approval for formation or dissolution of
governmental agencies, and changes in organizations and boundaries of
cities and special districts. As part of this function each commission
is required to "
initiate and assist in studies to improve efficiency
and reduce costs of services ...."
Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (CKH Act) requires all local
agency formation commissions to conduct Municipal Service Reviews. These
reviews are to be comprehensive effectiveness and efficiency assessments
of each public service provided within the commission boundary. The CKH
Act states that these reviews are to include options of reorganization
and consolidation. The CKH Act also requires the State to publish comprehensive
guidelines for commissions to follow when conducting these reviews. The
final draft guidelines published in October 2002 include funding and staffing
alternatives to perform these reviews within five years, and recommend
reviews by service functions (e.g. all sewer districts).
The San Mateo County
Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) is a seven-member commission,
representing all public service providers in the county. The Commission
meets six times per year. Members are typically long serving, obtaining
reappointments to the limit of the law. The Commission's most common function
is the review and approval or disapproval of city or special district
annexations of adjoining land parcels.
LAFCo once had one
half-time and four full-time staff employees, but its staff and budget
were vastly reduced. Today, the Executive Director is its sole employee.
mandated by the state in 2000, to date LAFCo has not initiated any Municipal
Service Reviews. LAFCo has approved a geographically based plan to conduct
city and special district service reviews on a three-year cycle, beginning
has dealt primarily with cases brought to it. Over the past five years
there has not been a single instance of a LAFCo initiated study to improve
efficiency or reduce costs that resulted in the consolidation or elimination
of any governmental agency. In the few instances when special districts
have been dissolved, such as the East Palo Alto County Water District
in 2000 and Palomar Park Water District in the late 1990s, the impetus
for dissolution was by request of those being served, not by any action
initiated by LAFCo.
does not proactively pursue local agency economies or efficiencies that
may impact elected or appointed officials. This is due to the commission
structure which is composed of representatives from cities and special
districts that must pass judgment on other cities and special districts.
LAFCo is reluctant to suggest service area consolidations or elimination,
no matter how ineffective or inefficient a service provider may be. Action
on the part of LAFCo commissioners to consolidate or eliminate related
service providers could be politically difficult for some commission members.
As a result, completed studies typically are not widely publicized nor
LAFCo studies are not proactively nor widely disseminated to the affected public. The Publication of studies is limited to the LAFCo website or by visiting the LAFCo office.
TLAFCo's lack of
initiative to recommend and effectively communicate service efficiency
opportunities deprives residents of the county of the information they
need to make well-informed decisions regarding public services.
The current LAFCo
approved plan to perform service reviews by geographic area will not
allow county residents adequate opportunity to compare their public
services with others. Service specific data collected in one part of
the county could be three years old before comparable data is available
from another geographic area in the county.
LAFCo staff and budget constraints may compromise the quality and usefulness of information that LAFCo is required to provide to the public by legal mandate.
The LAFCo Executive
Director is an efficient and hard working employee, but the Municipal
Service Reviews constitute additional workload that may require a new
LAFCo commissioners need to overcome the political hurdles and exercise independent judgment to become more effective in saving taxpayer dollars.