Friday, 29 September 2023

Scott: Lake County is transparently sharing its challenges

As District 4 supervisor, I have consistently sought to consider the consequences for every county resident of any action our board has taken. In reading Pil Murphy’s recent letter to the editor, “Measure G, the new $45 million local tax,” I was troubled by his characterization of several matters. It is critical that our community is able to communicate about the issues that affect us all, and that we all work together to meet the challenges we face.

In the interest of promoting productive conversation, I offer the following information, organized point-by-point.

“Millions of dollars could be had by selling more of the over 3,000 tax defaulted properties the county owns.”

The Treasurer-Tax Collector had a tax lien sale in Fiscal Year 2016-17, has one scheduled for 2017-18, and plans are underway for 2018-19. Sale of these properties puts them back onto the tax roll, and conducting annual sales is a high priority.

“The ballot statement (i.e., the rebuttal to the argument against Measure G) states that in 2015 county employees got a 3 percent raise (but some got 10 percent).”

I signed that ballot statement and I can attest to the accuracy of it: For the first time in seven years, in 2015 the majority (87%) of County employees (706 out of 812 permanent employees) received a 3% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). At the same time, the county also responded to a change in pension law requiring that all California Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) eligible employees directly pay the employee portion of PERS. To comply, the county increased gross wages by paying the equivalent amount, of what had been paid to PERS, directly to employees. In turn, employees had to begin paying the same amount to PERS. This was called a “PERS Swap,” and it left employees with an increase in net wages of less than 3 percent. There was a 5 year window to comply and numerous other counties and cities did the same thing.

Also at the same time, there were three employees who had already retired, but returned to work. These three received a 10 percent adjustment to keep gross wages in line with other employees. But because these three were no longer paying into retirement, they were not subject to the PERS Swap.”

“The county [has failed] to collect TOT [Transient Occupancy Tax] funds from local property owners who rent their homes to vacationers.”

The county does, in fact, collect TOT from some property owners renting their homes to vacationers.

However, a significant number are not complying with this requirement. To address the significant number who are not paying, county staff have advised they will soon recommend the Board of Supervisors hire a contractor to identify properties used as short-term rentals and help collect TOT.

“The Board of Supervisors never once discussed any of the ideas citizens provided to cut waste in county government.”

During our initial Community Visioning process in January, the county received input from hundreds of individuals. This feedback was reviewed by county staff members, and ideas were categorized and aggregated for presentation to the Board of Supervisors. Our intent with January’s forums was to get a broad sense of the community’s priorities. Moving forward on priorities shared by numerous community members was determined more appropriately responsive than having the Board review all individual ideas. However, all board members publicly share our contact information.

“None of the hundreds of people who attended the “Visioning” meetings asked for [a Sales Tax].”

Multiple individuals submitted written comments that the county should consider a sales tax measure, as the cities had done. Additionally, of nearly 300 survey respondents, most of whom had attended a forum and learned about the county’s financial situation, more than 70 percent voiced support of a sales tax increase. Additionally, 55 percent of the 300 respondents to a telephone poll thought the County should consider a sales tax increase.

“You have heard the numbers I provided regarding the county finances are wrong… but you have not heard what the “correct” one are.”

The county has been very transparent regarding our financial situation by preparing the resources posted at . I encourage everyone to spend some time watching County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson’s informational videos and reviewing the other materials.

“Why does an annual shortfall of $1 million in tax revenue due to the fires and flood require an annual $4.5 million tax to remedy?”

The County has never suggested that disaster was the only contributor to our financial condition. Disaster, however, had a multiplying effect, due to its direct costs and the impact disaster response and recovery have had upon the availability of County staff. Visit for more information.

“Why is the County still dithering over what to do with the Lucerne castle?”

The Lucerne Castle is currently out for bid.

“Perhaps most telling is the absolute silence when it comes to the challenge to debate me on Measure G…”

We are able to inform voters on basic facts relevant to county finance – which we have been doing since Measure G was announced. We are not able to make arguments in a debate setting with an intent to persuade individuals to vote in a certain way.

I hope this series of answers is helpful to many. Lake County’s government is transparently sharing our challenges because we know the best response will come from the 64,000 County residents, and not solely County leadership, and certainly not just one individual.

That is why we hosted community visioning forums throughout the county in January.

That is why we are planning more community visioning forums on the topic of economic development, to begin Thursday, June 21.

Let us not forget, in this season of political disagreement, that we are one county, one community. What affects one touches us all. We are stronger together. I do my best every day to lead with that in mind, and my sincere hope is that division will fade, and honesty, collaboration and mutual hope will lead us to a brighter future.

Tina Scott represents District 4 on the Lake County Board of Supervisors. She lives in Lakeport, Calif.

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09.30.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
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