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Other Voices – Board accepts dubious data in claims reimbursement analysis

On July 7, the Board of Supervisors accepted a fiscal analysis of the Property Owner Claims Reimbursement Initiative, prepared by Seifel Consulting and based on a set of assumptions and unverified information provided by the Nevada County staff.

The consulting firm refused to stand behind the numbers, stating, “Seifel Consulting cannot and does not warrant the accuracy of any data utilized to prepare this financial analysis …” See page 5 of the study.

In verbal testimony, Libby Seifel told the Board of Supervisors, “There is no way to determine the real cost of this initiative.”



Would you believe the county paid $20,000 for this study?

Supervisor Conklin made a motion to accept the study and adopt the consultant’s findings for inclusion in the opposition language of the November ballot. This motion was passed 4 to 1 by the usual suspects, with Sue Horne dissenting. This 300-word negative ballot statement cost the taxpayers $20,000.




Based on the information provide by county staff, the consultant concluded the county could be liable for $3.5 million to $10.5 million in claims from property owners every year. If this is true, then in the last year, the county probably took $3.5 million to $10.5 million in property value from the 397 landowners issued permits in 2001.

How could the Board of Supervisors enter into the official record a study of such dubious accuracy, unless of course they truly believed that the county was in fact taking $3.5 million to $10.5 million in private property for public use every year?

In the fiscal analysis, the consultant presented two options to the Board of Supervisors. The first was to continue to take away the use of people’s private property without compensation, creating a new department to handle the claims. The second was to revise the General Plan and zoning regulations. “The county could choose to enforce fewer regulations, repeal existing regulations or change the method currently used to implement and enforce land use regulations” (see page 4 of the study). The Board of Supervisors rejected this notion, preferring to create a new department.

The proposed new department would have two appraisers, one planner, one administrative staff person and one deputy attorney, and would cost taxpayers big bucks. The annual estimate for staffing costs is $290,000 to $350,000, a place to work for $18,000 to $20,000, and supplies and services at $75,000 to $80,000 a year. Also, there would be a one-time startup cost of $100,000 to $200,000 for computers and furniture, and finally,

administrative costs of $460,00 to $530,000 per year. All this to handle 10 to 30 claims a year.

Remember, the Board of Supervisors rejected the consultant’s option of revising the regulations in favor of this costly new program. Your tax dollars at work!

Either the whole $20,000 study is bogus, a gross attempt to construct big lies for the opposing views on the November ballot, or the study validates the Citizens for Fair and Balance Land-use’s position that the county is in fact taking private property for public use without just compensation. If the study is valid, it appears they are taking $3.5 million to $10.5 million each year. Wow!

Russ Steele is a member of the Citizens for Fair and Balance Land-use coordinating committee.


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