The owner of Rancho Murieta Airport Inc. has said his organization pays more for Rancho Murieta's security tax than it does for insurance. (2010 file photo)
Security has shaped and defined Rancho Murieta and given the community its appeal as a safe place to live from its earliest days. But funding Security has proven to be problematic over the years.
Security services were transferred to the Community Services District in 1984 after the developer refused to pay the Rancho Murieta Association’s security charges. An election in 1998 for the security special tax was the result of Prop. 218, a constitutional amendment that required the CSD to change the way it received revenue from customers for the service. Almost 80 percent of Rancho Murieta’s registered voters approved the measure.
On Wednesday, the special tax will be challenged when a request for a rate reduction comes to the CSD board.
Brad Beer, president of Rancho Murieta Airport Inc., is asking for a reduction in the airport’s tax. As part of his purchase of the airport in 2010, Beer acquired an additional 33 acres, making the property about 100 acres, added a storage facility and made security improvements to the property.
Beer first approached the CSD in late 2010 about exempting the airport from the special tax.
"Originally, Mr. Beer wanted no security tax because he didn't feel we were going to be providing a service,” General Manager Ed Crouse said at one of several Finance Committee meetings where the tax appeal was discussed last year.
After district counsel Jonathan Hobbs determined that the special tax couldn’t be waived, Beer revised his request and requested a reduction based on the lower rate paid by the Equestrian Center.
Attempts to reach Beer for this story were unsuccessful.
Hobbs told the Finance Committee in June that there were policy considerations with a rate reduction -- “whether where you set the rate is sufficient to meet your expenses” and "whether or not you want to reduce everyone proportionately as opposed to just one user. … You're still going to be providing service out there."
Crouse said a study used to develop the rates in the special tax evaluated where security resources were allotted, and, over the years, "That might have changed. The mix and time spent is probably more in the residential area than it is in commercial area. However, you're not paying necessarily for time spent over there or calls for service. You're paying for when you call on the phone, you're paying for a response. ... You're paying for availability as well as patrol."
Beer attended the July committee meeting to present his view. He said CSD staff told him the rate was based on a square-footage basis and per call. "I don't think that crime has anything to do with square footage or the amount of time that you guys spend out there. We're pretty much locked down,” he said. The airport’s security special tax costs "more money than I'm paying for my insurance," Beer said, adding, "I just don't see where I'm getting any benefit for a grand a month, $1,300 a month." He said he arrived at a rate of $304 using "your numbers, based on your calls, based on your square footage....”
In October, Tim R. Youmans, a managing principal of Economic & Planning Systems Inc., met with the Finance Committee. Youmans consulted on the security and the drainage special taxes that went to the voters in 1998. Crouse told him the CSD was having two problems with the special taxes: the appeal by the airport raised questions about the rate structure, and the security and drainage budgets “are financially constrained.” Since 90 percent or more of the Security budget is labor, Crouse said cost increases “outstrip the 2 percent increase” -- the maximum increase allowed annually by the special tax.
"What you have to realize is that every vote on a tax is a compromise,” Youmans said. “And the compromise is not so much how much service you want to provide, but how much the voters will vote ... And so in 1998 there was a decision made on what the acceptable level of tax would be."
Youmans said there was an assumption that additional growth would occur. "And part of what has happened is that growth hasn't occurred. … if that growth had occurred, your tax base would have grown substantially and would have offset the inflation,” he said.
Youmans said it would take a new vote to change the tax rate structure voters approved in 1998, and he advised against “arbitrarily adjusting someone's rate to reduce it” because everybody else will want their rate adjusted. "In any system, any place you look in government, there's unfairness,” he said. “Nobody delivers a service exactly proportional to use. If you did that, it would be a user charge and you go into the ballpark and you pay your fee to get in to buy your seat."
Youmans said the ordinance passed by the voters says how the CSD can spend the special tax funds: operating the security gates, providing 24-hour a day mobile patrol, operating a radio communications center, providing assistance to other agencies for first aid, firefighting, police and emergency, monitoring, controlling, registering guests or invitees of the district, handling other activities approved by the board, and other incidental costs of providing the services. "There is nothing about your allocation of time. You make the decision on where you deploy your resources," he said.
Chapter 21 of the District Code, the Security Code, contains current security tax rates and other information. It’s available on the CSD web site.