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FITCH UPGRADES MENDOCINO COUNTY DEBT

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on Friday, 22 February 2013 in Uncategorized
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/21/idUSWNB0039O20130221

Fitch revises Mendocino County, California rating outlook

Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:51pm EST


Feb 21 - Fitch Ratings takes the following actions on Mendocino County (the
county), California:

--$79.6 million pension obligation refunding bonds (POBs), series 2002 affirmed
at 'BBB+'.

--Implied general obligation (GO) rating affirmed at 'A-'.

The Rating Outlook is revised to Positive from Stable.

SECURITY

The POBs are an absolute and unconditional obligation of the county imposed by
law, the payment of which is not limited to any special source of funds.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

CONTINUED FINANCIAL IMPROVEMENT: The Positive Outlook reflects improvements in
the county's financial position following substantial expenditure reductions and
management reforms over the last several years.

LONG-TERM ECONOMIC DECLINE: The county continues to face challenges from a
long-term economic contraction that preceded the recent downturn. Employment
levels have fallen each year over the past decade while population has
stagnated. In addition, wealth and income levels remain well below state and
national averages.

MANAGEMENT REFORMS: The county has made notable progress in addressing
weaknesses cited in past reviews. Management has raised fund balance targets
and established policies to help meet these new goals, updated treasury
practices, and begun preparations for its first capital improvement plan in
seven years.

MODERATE DEBT; ELEVATED PENSIONS: Overall debt levels are moderate but county
long-term obligations are substantial due to pension funding requirements.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

IMPROVED FINANCIAL POSITION: A sustained record of surplus operations and
enhanced financial flexibility will likely result in an upgrade in the near
term.

CREDIT PROFILE

Mendocino County is located in northern California, along the Pacific coast,
approximately 115 miles north of San Francisco. The county's estimated
population of 88,000 is little changed from the 1990s and is dispersed across a
land area larger than several states.

FINANCIAL IMPROVEMENT FOLLOWS CUTS

The county ended fiscal 2012 with strong operating results and appears
well-positioned for fiscal 2013. Net operating surpluses after transfers for
2012 were equal to 5.3% of general fund spending, raising unrestricted fund
balance to 9.4% of spending ($12.4 million). Year-end cash balances also rose
substantially, from $11.5 million in 2011 to $21 million in 2012.

The county's strong performance in 2012 follows substantial expenditure
reductions over the past several years, primarily through workforce and payroll
reductions. Workforce reductions have eliminated approximately one-fourth of
the county's full-time employees over the past five years, while remaining
employees have seen permanent wage cuts of 10% to 12.5%. In addition, the
county has eliminated other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for current and
retired employees.

Management projects further additions to fund balance in 2013, which Fitch
considers reasonable given prior year expenditure reductions and revenue
improvements through mid-year.

ECONOMIC WEAKNESS PERSISTS

The county continues to face a long-term economic contraction that dates from
the late 1990s. Population growth has been very slow over this period and
employment levels have dropped steadily. Tourism and wine production have
provided some opportunities for growth, but overall employment levels fell by
more than 10% over the past decade.

Unemployment rates for the county have generally tracked statewide averages and
at 10.0% for 2012 unemployment was well above the national rate of 8.1%.
Year-over-year employment growth was positive for the first half of 2012
followed by declines during the second half of the year, indicative of
continuing employment challenges. Income and wealth indicators are weak at 70%
to 85% of state and national averages.

Taxable assessed valuation (TAV) was relatively unaffected by the national
housing boom and has been insulated from subsequent declines. TAV dropped by
just 2.2% between 2010 and 2013 after many years of steady increases. The local
housing market continues to struggle despite the county's favorable TAV
performance. December 2012 home values reported by Zillow showed a 5.7%
year-over-year decline as compared to a 9.3% increase for the state as a whole.

MANAGEMENT REFORMS

The county has made notable progress in addressing management weaknesses cited
in prior rating reviews. The county adopted a revised fund balance policy in
2012 that increases reserve targets from 2% to 6.35% of general fund
expenditures, or a minimum of $10 million. The new policy also provides a
mechanism for incremental additions to reserves until targeted levels are
reached. Fitch expects these actions to further boost unrestricted fund
balances for the county over the next several years.

The county also made substantial revisions to its investment practices in 2012,
diversifying investment categories, increasing credit quality, and reducing
maturities in general. These actions appear likely to improve the county's
abilityto meet its chief investment goal of principal protection, and to better
serve its cash management needs.

The county has been without a capital improvement plan since 2006, but has
recently authorized the development of a new five-year plan as part of its
budget process for fiscal 2014. The county faces a large backlog of capital
projects due to spending deferrals during the recent downturn, but Fitch views
renewed efforts to identify and prioritize capital needs as a positive
development.

MODERATE DEBT; ELEVATED PENSION COSTS

Overall debt levels are moderate at $3,188 per capita or 2.8% of TAV.
Amortization of direct debt is average with 55% of outstanding principle retired
in 10 years. Management has no current plans for debt issuance apart from
short-term cash flow borrowing. Amounts borrowed for such purposes declined by
nearly one-third in fiscal 2013, providing further evidence of strengthened
operations.

As of June 30, 2012, the Mendocino County Employees' Retirement Association had
a funded ratio of 74%, or 67% under Fitch's alternate investment assumption of
7% returns. County contributions have increased by 63% over the past five
years, largely due to lower than expected investment results.

Total pension costs, including POB debt service and pension contributions, have
also accounted for a growing share of governmental spending in recent years.
Pension costs represented 9.3% of non-capital governmental expenditures in
fiscal 2010 but rose to 12.1% in 2012. As overall governmental spending has
declined (due largely to workforce and payroll reductions), such fixed costs
have increased as a share of remaining expenditures. Total carrying costs for
pensions, other post-employment benefits (OPEBs) and debt service were a
somewhat high 16% of non-capital governmental expenditures in fiscal 2012, as
compared to 12.3% in fiscal 2011.

The county began a phased elimination of OPEBs in 2010 and will have no related
liabilities after the end of the current calendar year.
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MCPB Board of Directors

Welcome our new board members and thank our outgoing board members at the Annual Meeting of the Mendocino County Public Broadcasting Board of Directors

Point Noyo (previously The Cliff House)

1011 S Main Street 

Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 6:00 pm

(No Host Bar/Food available for purchase)

New board members John Azzaro (At large); Jonathan Middlebrook (1st District); and Stuart Campbell (Programmer Elect) 

Outgoing board members are Bob Page and John Sakowicz


Here are the minutes from the last meeting, as yet unapproved.


KZYX/MENDOCINO COUNTY PUBLIC BROADCASTING

BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING

MARCH 7, 2016

WILLITS LIBRARY

 

MINUTES

 THE MEETING WAS CALLED TO ORDER AT 6:03 P.M.

ROLL CALL
Present: Meg Courtney, Lorraine Dechter, Jane Futcher, Jenness Hartley, Ed Keller, Benj Thomas, John Sakowicz

Absent: Clay Eubank

 

APPROVAL OF LAST MEETING’S MINUTES: Unanimous

 

MATTERS FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT: Meg Courtney

—GROUND RULES: Meg appointed Jenness to be the Meeting Facilitator

—THANK YOUS: Meg expressed thanks to Lorraine Dechter, the new GM: Jane Futcher, elections coordinator and election ballot workers and stampers, including Jenness, Ed, Bob and several others. Ed Keller was thanked for building a covered area outside where staff can sit.

—FUNDRAISING: Meg mentioned some of the fundraisers coming up, including Amy Goodman in Willits, April 16; a Willits house party April 23; a Mother’s Day fundraiser with Starchild chocolate; a Church of the Boogie Woogie party with a Boogie Woogie diva in June. She thanked Catherine Keegan and Tim Bray for taking on many fundraising events for KZYX and for requiring board and staff do very little.

 

MATTERS FROM BOARD MEMBERS:

Jane Futcher reported that board election was proceeding and the on-air forum went well.

John Sakowicz welcomed Lorraine and expressed hope that KZYX will collaborate with low-power channels like KMEC, also using digital platforms and many new technologies that expand the station’s reach and can be the source of potential revenues.

 

STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS

—Elections Report by Jane not needed because of above check-in

—No Finance Committee report due to Clay’s absence

 

PRESENTATION OF MENDOCINO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ COMMENDATION TO MARY AIGNER BY TOM WOODHOUSE: Tom Woodhouse read an eloquently worded recognition of Mary Aigner’s 22 years of service as a staff member of KZYX. (See Attached)

 

COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD REPORT FROM ELLEN SAXE

Ellen summarized the results of a CAB public meeting in Elk in February. She chose an area that the station does not always reach out to but was disappointed with the turnout despite the fact that the meeting was well publicized. About 10 people attended. She said transparency of the board and station was a big issue and there were requests for:
1. On-air CAB meetings

2. On-air Board meetings

3. On-air discussions with board representatives

4. The board should stop using a closed board list serve and confidential meetings

5. Simple living membership of $25 should be announced on the air

6. Controversy comes from exclusion — Someone said that when the Mendocino School Board adopted a more open stance their meetings became less contentious and shorter.

 

Ellen reported many comments about the board’s conduct, including:

—Board should state what its rules are and follow the process

—Board should not let a few people make all the decisions

—Board should make transparency a priority

—Board needs to follow through as new board members replace outgoing members.

—Board should be more responsive.

Several of those attending want access to the membership list with an opt-out clause for folks who don’t want to be contacted.

Other suggestions:

—Hire a volunteer coordinator

—contact nonmembers through public meetings

—Restore safe harbor

—State what happened with Ukiah studio funds

—Start a program council that had decision-making power

—Pay attention to the South Coast so people in Gualala can tune in.

—Encourage more participation by young people

—Define and follow the process for choosing programmers

—Institute a grievance procedure for former programmers

—Form Ad Hoc committees of members for pursuing specific issues

—Take seriously the decline in membership

—Encourage and support local programmers

 

BREAKS: During the meeting, possibly during Ellen’s presentation, a reporter covering the meeting and a candidate for the board interrupted frequently and claimed the board president was not following clear procedures. The facilitator called short break to establish calm.

 

NO ACTION ITEMS

STATE OF THE STATION REPORT — Lorraine Dechter

Lorraine did not submit a written report. She introduced Jerry Fraley, the interim Operations Manager, who was not present, and Raoul Van Haul, who introduced himself and his long experience in broadcasting, particularly in Portland, Oregon. Lorraine announced new Native American programming, a five-minute syndicated segment for which she has not yet found the perfect time slot. She said our expenses for the month of January were triple what was budgeted because it was costly covering the vacant program manager and ops manager positions.

 PUBLIC COMMENT:

Jeff Wright: Thanked Lorraine for unraveling the “trainwreck she was left with.” Said the satellites studios are working better and he asked that the “safe harbor” from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. be restored. He encouraged KZYZ to participate in joint events with KMUD and promote the Seven Rivers Network.

Sheila Dawn Tracy: Said members should be able to communicate with each other; wants safe harbor restore; would like a written GM report; feels new KZYX newsletter should have gone in the silent drive letter.

Sarah: Requested results of fundraisers and pledge drives be published on the KZYX Web site and promoted on the Web site in advance

Fran Koliner: Welcomed Lorraine

Ellen Saxe: Gave out her email address so others can receive summary of CAB meeting

Lyn Dee Johnson: Wants each board member to have a sign with their names so people know who they are; said this was an “emotional transition” that is hard on listeners, too, as they hear new voices on the air, etc. She, or someone else, remarked that the FCC investigation of KZXY led to a decision by the staff to end safe harbor because of concerns the station might lose its license if the FCC heard bad language on the air.

 

The meeting ended at 8 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by Jane Futcher, Board VP

 

Adendum: Mendocino Board of Supervisors’ letter of Commendation to Mary Aigner. Signed by Tom Woodhouse and Dan Gjerde, delivered at the meeting March 7, 2016

 

Mary Aigner tirelessly served Mendocino County for 22 years through her work at KZYX. During her tenure as program director, she exhibited an unflagging dedication to community radio in general and Mendocino County Public Broadcasting in particular. The station was more than a job to her, it was a career and a passion, often placed before her own personal life. 

 

Mary exhibited dedication to the listening community by

—Cultivating familiarity with the various communities of the region, and the issues

confronting each of them. She often helped to arrange discussions of those issues on the stations public affairs programs and newscasts’’

—Maintaining steadfast awareness, and unwaveringly correct instincts about the preferences

of the public radio listening community, and representing them in any meeting,

conversation, or decision in which she was involved. “How will it benefit the listeners?”

was the perspective she always brought to the table.

 —Facing recurring challenges from small segments of the community about programming,

remaining firmly rooted in her convictions and professional expertise about how to serve

the majority of listeners and how to make KZYX the best possible community station. 

  —Being willing to engage in conversation with any listener, and personally respond to their

questions and concerns

             

Mary exhibited dedication to the station by:

 —Understanding and being able to operate and manage all the stations equipment, and

keeping herself abreast of the evolving technology

—Being available 24/7 to handle last-minute changes, trouble-shoot technical difficulties and support other staff members in their efforts to seek resolution

 —Being available to facilitate special programming – coming in on weekends and evenings to update the stations automated broadcast system

 —Helping produce live remote broadcasts, and fundraising events

 —Remaining ever mindful of the regulations which govern public radio stations

              

Mary exhibited dedication to the stations volunteer programmers by:

—Training, guiding, and assisting on-air volunteers, whatever their level of skill or experience

 —Helping find substitute hosts for absent programmers, often filling in herself on short notice

—Always being available to programmers, even on weekends or when out of town, to instruct,

support, and trouble-shoot unexpected on-air difficulties

 —Actively interfacing with record companies, and content providers, to keep the flow of new

music and programming coming to the station

 —Alerting programmers to new music or events which might be of interest to their audience

 —Facilitating interview opportunities for programmers with performers and public figures

Tom Woodhouse & Dan Gjerde

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