Morning News for mONday, February 25th
The Fitch Rating service has reaffirmed nearly $80 Million of Mendocino county pension bonds at BBB+ , affirmed the general obligations as A- and upgraded the outlook from Stable to positive.
The reasons for the positive outlook: improvements in
the county's financial position following substantial expenditure reductions and management reforms.
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. A sustained record of surplus operations and enhanced financial flexibility will likely result in an upgrade in the near term.
The county's strong performance in 2012 follows substantial expenditure reductions, 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 for current and retired employees.
Despite the good news, the county continues to face challenges from a long-term economic contraction. In addition, wealth and income levels remain well below state and national averages.
The Ukiah City Council last week voted unanimously to borrow another $4 million in 30 year loan to pay for traffic improvements needed to bring a proposed Costco store to Airport Park Boulevard.
During negotiations, the city agreed to complete improvements to the intersections and Highway 101 off-ramps leading to the store as a way to alleviate traffic congestion in the area.
For Phase 1 of the improvements, staff estimates it will cost $1,184,264 to improve the intersection of Airport Park Boulevard and Talmage Road, add a signal at Airport Park Boulevard and Commerce Road, widen the intersection of Hastings and State streets and improve the medians on the southern section of Airport Park Boulevard.
Phase 2 will improve the interchange of Talmage Road and Highway 101, including modification of the off-ramps, and staff estimates it will cost $2,740,000.
According to the report, the interest rate for the state loaning authority was 2.06 percent for 30 years, and the city would likely pay an average of $213,000 a year for the planned loan, and repayment of the loan "will come from tax revenue generated by build-out of the Redwood Business Park.
Helping local farmers comply with water discharge requirements, proposed contribution rates for the county's retirement system and a proposal to adopt locally a law aimed at stopping illicit marijuana grows on public land are items on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors' Tuesday meeting agenda for 9 a.m.
An Agricultural Lands Discharge Program will require farmers to develop water management plans and have them reviewed regularly thru third-party verification.
The board will hear an actuarial valuation report on the county's retirement system that recommends that the county to pay 19.80 percent of payroll for "general" members, 30.20 percent for "safety" members and 22.66 percent for "safety, probation" members . The rates are higher than those accepted in December and would be effective July 1.
Also on the agenda is a proposal by Supervisors McCowen and Gjerde to adopt a resolution that would implement locally Assembly Bill 2284 which will allow law enforcement to stop vehicles that are carrying certain types of agricultural irrigation supplies and on a rock or unpaved road on state or federal land, on a private timberland production site of 50,000 acres or greater .
Also on the agenda is a request from Gjerde and McCowen to adopt a resolution supporting a proposed northern expansion of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries to include all of the Mendocino Coast because "Oil and gas exploration and drilling are prohibited within National Marine Sanctuaries."