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County supervisor provides updates on building fees, animal crisis, solar, pay raises for supervisors

The following updates were provided by Riverside County First District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. 

New Building Fees
Following my article last month about RCTC looking at a sales tax proposal this November, yet another regional independent agency is looking to raise more money in the form of developer fees to also build roads and improve transportation.

The Western Riverside Council of Governments has a board made up of representatives from each city in Western Riverside County and four of the five members of the board of supervisors. They manage the Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee (TUMF), which is a tax/fee on almost every new development in the region, which is intended to ensure new development pays for the increased traffic it creates (on top of the Developer Impact Fees paid by developers to cities or the county). They are doing a comprehensive “nexus” review of the fees tied to each type of development (residential, commercial, retail, warehouse, etc.) for the first time since 2017, and significant increases are expected.

I still don’t understand how they can argue that warehouses have the lowest impact and should pay the lowest fees, but you can read their report and submit comments until June 10 here: https://www.wrcog.us/201/studies-documents.

Animal Crisis
Your county government has a responsibility to provide animal control services to the unincorporated (non-city) residents of the county. This involves having Animal Services officers respond to loose, injured, or deceased animals, neighbor disputes over barking dogs and crowing roosters, and lots of staff to operate county animal shelters.

Decades ago, the county decided it would make financial sense (due to economies of scale) to allow local cities to contract with the county to provide those services within city boundaries. Fast forward and certain outcomes of contracting are not going well.

The costs of labor and benefits for those employees have skyrocketed from those early days, the cost and complexities to staff and operate shelters have gone off the charts, and sadly the overall animal population being turned in to county shelters has gone through the roof. The shelters are overflowing despite repeated efforts to find people willing to adopt (not to mention special efforts to work with rescue groups and out-of-state adoption programs).

New contract rates are being developed to hopefully help the county recover its true costs for service, but if the adoption rates do not improve, and the shelters continue to be at or beyond capacity (and financially strained), one could argue that the time may be upon us to ask all or most of the contracting cities to start making plans to build and operate their own city-based shelters. Perhaps even the local regional organization “WRCOG” could champion more jointly operated city shelters going forward. Whatever the answer, some quick solutions need to be found.

Nothing Is Really Free – Not Even Sunlight
Many years ago, the county jumped onto the solar bandwagon, allegedly to 1) obtain clean power, 2) reduce demand on the electrical grid, and 3) enjoy reduced electric bills. All three appear to have come true—well sort of.

The problem is that once you factor in the actual cost to finance and construct all those large solar panel clusters in or around county facilities, the environmentally green solar deals turn to financially red deals. In fact, despite the realized savings in the energy bills, the past construction costs and the annual debt service currently result in a net loss to the county of over a million dollars per year for soaking up the sun!

New Outdoor Food Court in Mead Valley
A little over a week ago, a new county-sponsored food truck/food court had a “soft opening” with about 15 food trucks and vendor tables on hand. This impressive outdoor site is located on the southwest corner of Cajalco Road and the 215 Freeway, and is accessed off of Harvill Avenue in Mead Valley (between Perris and Riverside).

The five-acre site is fully fenced, with portable restrooms, night lighting, shaded seating, dedicated on-site parking, security, and room for dozens of licensed food trucks and other vendors. The main goal is to provide a safe, controlled, and organized site that wouldn’t require residents to stop on busy roadsides or in residential neighborhoods just to get a quick meal. For those looking for a more relaxed, quieter environment, we still encourage folks to share the love with our brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area, particularly those family-owned eateries that are the backbone of many communities.

Hefty Pay Raised for We, but not for Thee
Being an elected official is a choice. You enter the political arena knowing the workload and the pay. You work hard and generally spend a lot of money in an election to land the job so you can serve the public. To then turn around and seek a large pay increase seems—well—tacky.

Yes, I am a stick in the mud, and I realize very well the amount of responsibility that comes with these jobs and the all-consuming demands on your time that come with it. But unlike the professionals in various county departments, elected positions are not jobs to be sought as stepping stones in your income and career ladder, and they do not need to be paid as such.

Elected officials shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty, and we don’t want a situation where only the wealthy or retired can afford to serve in elected offices, but in a county where the median income is less than $40,000, it is hard to justify new salaries that will range from just over $200,000 (for elected Supervisors) to $350,000 (for district attorney and sheriff). And to have future pay raises kick in any time we grant an increase in the salary range for our own chiefs of staff or chief deputies seems—well—tacky. I voted no, and I will once again refuse to accept the pay increase.

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