Happy Birthday CSD!?

by Gene Herr, June 9, 2010

By some counts this is the 40th anniversary year for the Anderson Valley Community Service District. Last winter directors approved a celebration of the event. A committee was formed. Ideas were solicited. The event turned into “Spring into Summer,” held last Saturday at the fairgrounds, complete with Lions’ tri tip, fire breath­ers, balloon tosses, live music, and rides in fire engines and community service awards. (Original plans to charge the happy kiddies for rides were scrapped at the insis­tence of the fire chief.)

They were planning to charge for fire engine rides? For the CSD? No, no silly. They were raising money for the Teen Center.

Whoops, how did that happen? I thought they were celebrating 40 years of very local government. Accord­ing to CSD board chairman Diane Paget, the event “morphed into something else, not what I understood we were voting for. However it was a nice and successful event for children, and local families.”

So what could it have celebrated, or even given a passing nod to? Well how about the folks who got together years ago to find a way to provide community service.

For example the 24 street lights turned on in down­town Boonville, Philo, and one even in Navarro some 50 years ago. Or the fire department, growing slowly from small local volunteer companies, to finally offer fire protection over 250 square miles of the Navarro River drainage, ridge-top to ridge-top from Mountain House Road to Dimmick Park. Or the hundreds of firefighters over the years who persisted with training to insure their competence, and their neighbors who gave land for fire stations. Or the strength of the community which has created a plan for fire protection and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide serviceable fire sta­tions and equipment throughout the district. Or the Air­port, on land donated by local families to be used for a public airport, and bought back for one dollar in change contributed by the public in attendance at the meeting in 1985 when CSD directors voted to take the County up on its offer/threat (“Buy it back or we will close it down!”) so the airport could continue to serve the community. Or the combined volunteer efforts of folks trying to offer some summer programs for kids, even swim classes in local private pools, and other activities when the school programs were not available; adult sports activities, community chorus — an eclectic program that has varied throughout the years depending on what grants are avail­able and what demand exists. Or the cooperative spirit that makes it possible for the district to hold title to the Little Red School House Museum while the Historical Society manages the collection and provides the docents. Or the people [Homer Mannix] who wrote the grants and pursued the administrative tangles to negotiate the water storage at the fairgrounds which protects Boonville and the tennis courts at the high school. All of these might have been noted in passing, and a thought given to the people whose efforts have helped shape local govern­ment here in the past half century.

Equally they might have done well to note the efforts which proved too much for the community at the time but which might still be achieved in a different time with different skills and energy now available — such as the swimming pool, putting the street lights underground, and the community water system.

Local turf wars and divisions were then, as now, abun­dant. However about twenty-five years ago property owners voted to extend the district to its present bounda­ries, in order to provide tax supported services to that area. This process, called Annexation, set the tax rate and delineated the services to be provided: lights; fire pro­tection and emergency response; recreation; and the Boonville airport. The then Board negotiated the division of tax revenue with the County [Ruben Thomasson and Norm Clow] and they stipulated that the existing tax rate for the existing district (floor of the Valley) would be spread over the expanded area and as property changed hands the new tax rate would apply throughout. Since Board policy then was to fund the Airport and the Rec­reation efforts by fees, grants and volunteer effort, they deliberately made no provision for an additional tax. Later, property owners of Anderson Valley again voted to assess themselves to provide additional guaranteed revenue for fire protection when the state pulled the first of its bait and switch moves to steal local property taxes.

This brings us, dear friends, back to the fund-raising for the Teen Center. Next Tuesday, June 15th, not its regular day and not yet announced, call 895-2075), the Budget Committee will hold a mandatory review and hearing of the public for the district budget for next year. If you cannot make this meeting you may speak your piece the next afternoon at the CSD Board meeting, Boonville Firehouse, time to be announced.

Last year directors granted a temporary subsidy for administrative costs [staff time, accounting, audits, insurance, office expenses] to the Recreation Committee, funding the expenses out of property tax revenue. Last year directors also increased district involvement in the Teen Center together creating the most Byzantine of contorted organizational structures. There is a board of adults and teens who direct program, with oversight by the Recreation Committee for program. The budget is developed by the teen center director in communication with but not supervised by the General Manager, with fiscal oversight provided by the district Budget Com­mittee and final approval by the District Board (I am not making this up).

Rumor has it that the fix is in and a tardy request from both recreation and teens for additional subsidies for next year will not only be on the agenda on the 15th, but that there are already three director votes, negotiated serially and privately, to approve this, plus additional tax revenue to the programs. This money can only come directly out of the fire department budget. A serious review of both Teen Center present finances (including the wheeling and dealing with the phone book project which has managed to piss off BOTH Judy Long and Dawn Ballantine, two of the most stalwart of community volunteers) is definitely in order.

At the forty year anniversary of local government Anderson Valley could use an assessment of what has been done, what could be done and when. In the recent General Plan discussion valley folks listed community water and sewer, a second local deputy, comfortable downtown areas, broadband communications, as impor­tant goals. Any and all of these issues may be addressed by local government. Even recouping some of the sales tax which goes over the hill to Ukiah might well be dis­cussed.

According to director Andrea La Campagne the Com­munity Service District has repeatedly asked resi­dents and property owners if they have any interest in any of these issues and has had no response. Do you remember being asked? On the other hand….she reports there are many folks who want the District to actively foster the Teen Center program, a program which pro­vides services restricted to a very specific and limited number of the population of Anderson Valley.

What we have here is a failure to Communicate.

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