By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY, Staff Writer
and MIKE HARRIS, Publisher
Efforts to bring cityhood to the greater Crestline community have been put on hold for now after the Incorporate Lake Gregory (ILG) committee learned the tax revenues would be insufficient to pay for an incorporated town.
The information was shared with the public at the July 16 community meeting, held at the San Moritz Lodge at Lake Gregory. Bill Mellinger, chairman of the committee, hosted the two-hour-long meeting.
Mellinger announced that, after repeated attempts to get an accurate report from San Bernardino County administrators of what taxes would be available, the latest analysis of county budgeted actual numbers showed the dollars weren’t there.
Mellinger said the committee also would stop efforts at collecting petition signatures that would request the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to begin the process of determining if cityhood would be feasible. Any signature petitions already collected would be turned over the LAFCO, he said.
“Frankly, it is hard to trust the numbers that we have received from the county,” Mellinger said. “They have changed and there is no way to determine if they are accurate. Without a thorough investigation, we cannot say whether we are feasible or not.
“So, where are we?” he continued. “At this moment, we are going to put the petition on hold due to the significant reduction in anticipated funds based on the 45.14 percent figure.”
The fiscal figures given by the county have changed three times. Previously, the county said there would be 62.31 percent of tax dollars available to fund a city. In the latest version, the county said that number was adjusted down to 45.14 percent. The new city would need at least 51.4 percent.
The committee had presented a five-year budget for a new city, with projections that in the first year of operation the city would need about $12.5 million.
The reason why cityhood efforts have only been placed on hold for the present time, Mellinger said, was that there is a possible funding option that might make incorporation feasible.
He explained that Assembly Bill 818, which is now in suspension in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, would be the key.
If approved by the California legislature, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, new incorporated cities, such as Lake Gregory-Crestline, would receive property tax funds in lieu of the motor vehicle fees.
If that legislation does become law, the new Lake Gregory-Crestline city would receive about $1.5 million in the first year of incorporation, making cityhood achievable.
In addition to Mellinger’s report on where cityhood efforts stood, there were three speakers who made presentations to those gathered for the community meeting.
The first speaker was Bob Kinzel, former recreation director from the city of Glendale, and who was recognized with a P.O.C.K.E.T. Award at the May Rim Health and Resource Fair.
He explained the differences between the current fee-based recreation programs Rim of the World Recreation and Park District now offers and a city-funded recreation program, and how it could be funded by the same $22 tax (roughly about $300,000 coming from Crestline annually) that residents are currently paying to Rec and Park. Currently, Crestline does not have a park, while other mountain communities do.
The next speakers were representatives from the Sheriff’s Department.
On hand to discuss how current law enforcement operations cover mountain communities and what a law enforcement plan exclusively for a new incorporated city would be was Lt. Don Lupear, currently commander of the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station, and Capt. John Ades, who helped develop the proposal.
Under the proposed law enforcement plan, Crestline would have an additional two deputies who would be dedicated to patrolling the town exclusively, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means there would be a total of 11 new deputies exclusively for Crestline. That contract would also include detectives, supervisors, vehicles and equipment.
The final speaker was Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, formerly executive officer of LAFCO San Bernardino, who has been assisting the committee as it tries to navigate toward incorporation for the Lake Gregory-Crestline area.
Rollings-McDonald explained in detail all of the committee’s efforts to gain an accurate view of the funds that would be available for paying for cityhood, and why AB818 remains a real possibility as a source of property tax funding, if the bill eventually becomes law.
During the presentations, attendees were allowed to ask questions of the speakers, and the questions and comments reflected both pro and anti-incorporation sentiment on the topic.