Bob Perreault, director of the Plumas County Public Works Department, presented a strategy to the county board of supervisors on June 6 to keep all the streetlights on in Crescent Mills, Quincy and East Quincy and to return the Crescent Mills and Quincy lighting districts to solvency within the next two years.
The plan rose from the ashes on June 6 after loans to bail out the two lighting districts were voted down by the board May 9.
The Perreault plan
Perreault’s plan involved two elements. First, the county would lend Crescent Mills $600 to pay the money it owes PG&E, for 2.5 months of electricity and maintenance of its lights. In addition, the county would loan the Quincy lighting district $24,700 to start it on the road to solvency after its reserves run out in November 2017.
Second, voters within the two districts would be asked to vote in November to accept a special parcel tax to raise the money necessary to return the lighting districts to solvency.
The special taxes will be higher for the first year, to repay loans from the county, and lower for subsequent years. By state law, lighting districts have to repay loans within 12 months.
Property owners in Crescent Mills, Quincy and East Quincy will continue to pay the current lighting parcel tax as well.
Lighting district parcel taxes have not been raised since the districts were formed, although expenses have increased, leading to the current budget shortfalls.
The voters in each district need to approve the special tax by a two-thirds vote.
With budget shortfalls, County Counsel, Craig Settlemire told the board that the two lighting districts would have few options open to them without additional revenues, except to reduce their expenses. He said, “If the voters don’t vote for the plan, lights could go off.”
County actions so far
Perreault presented an engineer’s report to the board June 6 that analyzed the situation and described what the special parcel tax would need to be for each district to become sustainable. This report can be found by going to the Plumas County Public Works website.
The board was also asked to approve a $600 loan for the Crescent Mills lighting district and a $24,700 loan for the Quincy lighting district
The loans were voted down at the May 16 meeting because Supervisors Jeff Engel and Sherrie Thrall did not want the money to come from the county’s dwindling contingency fund, because they thought it was unfair that the county would be paying the utility bills of some lighting districts and not others.
On June 6, Perreault came before the board to explain that the loans had already been included in the 2016-2017 county budget and therefore would not be coming from the contingency fund. With this information, the board voted to allow the loans.
The county also began the process of putting the special parcel tax on the November ballot and letting the public know about a board hearing on the special parcel tax.
On June 13, a public hearing was held by the board of supervisors to receive public input on the two elements of the plan. There was no public input and the board approved the special tax amounts and agreed to put the issue on the November ballot.
The Quincy situation
For the Quincy lighting district, the special tax will be $2.61 a month for the first year and $1.55 a month for subsequent years.
Perreault states that if the voters support the special parcel tax, “This would fix the Quincy lighting district.”
Perreault said, “There is no immediate threat of streetlights going out in Quincy. There are district reserve funds to take the district through to the November vote.”
However,” he said, “you may be able to make it to November, but you might not be able to make it beyond that,” if the special tax doesn’t pass, “without some lights being turned off.”
Board President Lori Simpson, who represents Quincy and part of East Quincy, said, “People in my district want their street lights.”
The rest of East Quincy is in Engel’s district.
The Crescent Mills situation
The special tax for Crescent Mills would be $3.75 a month for the first year and $3.33 per month for subsequent years.
Perreault felt that the situation is more tenuous for Crescent Mills than for Quincy and East Quincy because: Crescent Mills has fewer lights, 17, and fewer constituents, 110, to pay for the special tax and has had no reserves to fall back on.
The Crescent Mills lighting district owes PG&E for 2.5 months. The county will loan the lighting district $600 to pay that bill. However, the Crescent Mills lighting district doesn’t have reserves to take it through to November.
Settlemire pointed out to the board that even if the voters accept the new special parcel taxes, it might be too late for taxes to be added to the tax bill for fiscal year 2017-2018. Therefore, the money raised by the special taxes may not be available to the lighting districts until July or August of 2018, at the earliest, unless the lighting districts decide to do a separate mailing.
LED light replacements
In a situation unrelated to the financial solvency of the two lighting districts, PG&E announced that it was going to replace sodium vapor lights currently in use along roads in Plumas County with more efficient LED lights.
PG&E said this action would save the county and the lighting districts $10,000 per year.
Perreault said that the LED cost savings would be an additional financial cushion for the lighting districts in the future.
PG&E notified the county that it would be willing to lower the intensity of existing lighting where that might be desirable without cost if their crews were notified before they left the area.
To comment on areas where lighting could be reduced, contact Perreault at 283-6268 or [email protected].