Finding # 21: The District has approached the Kern County Board of Supervisors to terminate the agreement for the operation of the Rosamond Community Pool and Recreation Center; no money has been allocated to the 2015-2016 District Budget for recreational activities.
This story has many angles and it is kind of hard to know where to begin so let’s start with some facts and then a little background.
First, the facts: (as outlined in the Kern County Grand Jury Final Report) Parks and Recreation was added as a function of the district in 1998.
- When instituted, an additional ballot measure providing operational funds for the parks and recreation was defeated by the voters.
- The District acquired Jim Williford Community Park from Kern County (County) in 2007.
- The District receives approximately $230,000 (annually) in ad valorem tax revenue which is discretionary revenue, and $82,000 from the County Service Area to pay for park and pool maintenance.
- Previous Boards have used the discretionary revenue to pay for park and pool costs.
- Park and pool maintenance costs exceed funds available.
- The District has voted to close the pool due to lack of funding.
- The Board directed staff to return ownership of the park to the County.
- The County has indicated that contract clauses exist making this transfer more complicated.
3. In 2007, the Board founded the Rosamond Community Foundation, a non-profit organization to support the Parks and Recreation Department.
An “ad valorem tax” is a tax imposed on the basis of value. The County levies an ad valorem property tax rate equal to one percent (1%) of the full assessed value. Additional rates may be added to include an amount equal to the amount needed to make payments for the interest and principal on general obligation bonds or other indebtedness approved by the voters. The tax rate is per every $100 of the assessed value.
In November 1998 the RCSD asked voters to give the RCSD parks and recreation powers which they did, also on the same ballot the voters were asked to fund the parks and recreation powers and that measure failed. That said, RCSD attempted to fund park and recreation efforts without rate payer-based funding support.
There were only two park and recreation areas in existence at that time; with the Rosamond (Glendower Park, being the oldest.) Glendower Park is an approximately 10-acre neighborhood park located south of Alexander Avenue and east of Glendower Street. It was established in 1953 and is Rosamond’s largest developed park site.
The newer of the two original Rosamond parks; Westpark (Jim Williford) Park was initially constructed in 1992 and offered lighted tennis and basketball courts, play equipment, picnic areas, restrooms, an activity building and most importantly a swimming pool.
Sometime prior to 2006, due to a lack of funding for operations and maintenance, Kern County closed the pool, filled it with sand and capped it with asphalt. The land for Jim Williford Park was ultimately acquired from the county via a “quit claim” deed effort. A quit claim deed is a legal instrument which is used to transfer interest in real property. The entity transferring their interest is called the grantor, and when the quit claim deed is properly completed and executed it transfers any interest the grantor has in the property to a recipient, called the grantee. The owner/grantor terminates (“quits”) any right and claim to the property, thereby allowing the right or claim to transfer to the recipient/grantee. As a result of the quit claim effort, Kern County transferred ownership of Jim Williford Park to the Rosamond Community Services District. Jim Williford Park was constructed in 1992.
From 1998 till 2003 the board worked hard to develop park areas. The first (in this era) was, United Street Park a piece of land owned by SKUSD. United Street Park was opened debt free in 2003 to give the community a new park to enjoy.
To show the community that the Rosamond Community Services District was not just “paying lip service” and would build parks for the community, a Park System Master Plan was developed and approved in 2006 (In the hopes that when the timing and economy was right, the RCSD would be able to show the voters tangible results of their efforts (in the form of family-friendly, parks and recreational areas) rather than ending another term with just handful of empty promises.)
As a direct result of the Park System Master Plan, it was noted that Glendower Park was in dire need of infrastructure updates; at 53 years old, the park was really showing its age.
As stated, in the facts (above) The Rosamond Community Foundation was formed in July of 2007 by the Rosamond Community Services Districts Board of Directors. They motioned and approved the formation of a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. With the approval of the RCSD Board, The Rosamond Community Foundation was established, primarily to seek funding for recreational and enrichment activities in efforts to help build the Districts Parks and Recreation division. The RCF is a non-profit, tax exempt 501 (c) (3) corporation that broadens the parks and recreational facilities of Rosamond residents. The Rosamond Foundation was designated to receive gifts from businesses, individuals, corporations, foundations and government entities.
A few accomplishments of note for the RCF include; the RCF, 1) helped fund the former Skate Park, 2) provided a handicap lift for the pool, 3) provided a new pool heater to raise the comfort level of the water for senior citizens who liked their early morning swims. This is just a small sampling; actually, the RCF did many things (typically small in scale; but rewarding to the community.) In recent years, the effectiveness of the RCF has waned as personalities and special interests took a toll on the group’s benevolence (Minutes, June 12, 2012). At one time, Mr. John Joyce was on the RCF board (it has been reported that his constant attempts to steer the RCF in a direction favorable to his interest) and ultimately he was forced to leave the foundation (Minutes, January 10, 2012) after allegedly physically threatening to assault two of the committee members during a heated exchange. Shortly after his departure, “The Rosamond News” began what appeared to be a three-year public battle against the RCF. Eventually the negative press most likely resulted in diminished donations and an overall malaise of the board members. As Mr. Joyce’s personal attorney, Olaf Landsgaard seems to be giving Mr. Joyce’s personal vendetta extra legs; as Olaf successfully led the current board to defund the RCF and sever all ties. (Oh well, this is a story best saved for another day!)
In 2008, the entire U.S. economy took a tumble, and unfortunately the economy has never really fully recovered. A vote has never been placed on a ballot to pursue the dreams described in the 2006 Park System Master Plan. Only recently have residents witnessed signs of rebounding and members of the community have begun expressing an interest in our community’s future development.
During the period from 1998 through 2014 parks were funded with the Rosamond Community Services District portion of property tax revenue. As an “ad Valorem” tax, it is discretionary revenue and not restricted to a single purpose. To fill gaps in the “ad Valorem” revenue and the cost of developing and maintaining parks and recreation areas, funds were borrowed from water and sewer “reserve” revenue. Over this sixteen-year time span, the total accumulated amount borrowed from the water and sewer reserve revenue amounted to $2,000,000.
In 2009 the Rosamond Community Services District took over the County Service Areas in Rosamond in an attempt to better utilize revenue from Kern County, the RCSD felt it could perform park and recreation support functions more efficiently; at less cost than what Kern County was spending. The intent was to save money to help fund parks and pay down the debt owed to the water and sewer reserve.
With efficiencies in mind, Steve Perez wanted to proverbially, “kill two birds with one stone”; he approached the SKUSD after ballot measure passed statewide providing a huge windfall of cash to all school districts. Seeking to leverage the SKUSD’s newly found wealth, he led the effort to allow SKUSD to take over United Street Park. His plan was to keep United Street Park open and unburden the RCSD from its obligation to maintain the park. He additionally wanted to use that relief to help pay back the park loans. Ultimately, his efforts kept the park open for the community and freed up the money RCSD was spending on it to pay down the debt.
United Street Park occupies school district property; the community uses it and although responsible for upkeep the RCSD was not doing a great job. RCSD blamed financial constraints. In 2014, Southern Kern unified School District took over the function of park maintenance.
The most recent RCSD development effort took place in 2009 and it involved building a skate park on Southern Kern Unified School District (SKUSD) property (adjacent to the Albertsons shopping area.) Unfortunately, due to a SKUSD expansion project, the SKUSD asked the RCSD to remove the Skate Park by June 30, 2014 so they could place offices there during a construction project. Today, the Skate Park is but a distant memory, while the equipment from the former park sits in an RCSD equipment storage area (See Image 22, below).
Image 22: The remains of the former Skate Park sitting in an RCSD equipment storage area.
Influence of the trio
During 2014 “The Rosamond News” ran dozens of negative articles about the RCSD Board and Steve Perez in regards to United Street Park, Jim Williford Park, and the Skate Park. Concerning the Skate Park “The Rosamond News” had a countdown to the closing day (go back and look at the articles from 2014) even using the headline “RCSD Destroys Skate Park.” I mention this for the simple fact that MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker used the Skate Park issue as a stable in their “all-for-one” campaign. They even using the term “Destroyed the Skate/BMX Park” in their campaign ads. The sentiment that they successfully espoused by the trio and their alleged mouthpiece; “The Rosamond News”, was plain and simple, as public opinion was that, “The RCSD Board members and Steve Perez hate the community, and the youth of Rosamond”. The faulty logic they used was, “how could they [the RCSD] do something so heartless as to close down the skate park.” The reality is much more benign, the Southern Kern Unified School District required access to the property that was “loaned” to the Skate Park.
Money (unrestricted, restricted, and CSA funds):
Unrestricted: This is “ad valorem” money which is unrestricted which means it can be used for anything under RCSD jurisdiction this money goes up and down because it is based on property values. For this discussion we are talking about $230,000 of “ad valorem” funds.
Restricted: This is money earmarked for water and sewer. This money is collected for specific purposes and its use is restricted. This means the funds are maintained separately and can only be used for whatever purpose for which they were collected. One caveat to restricted money…RCSD can and has borrowed from those funds to be used somewhere else (parks for example). When RCSD borrows from the restricted funds, they must present a payback plan at the time the loan is secured (prior to 2015, the Rosamond Community Foundation served as the mechanism to support previous payback plans.
CSA funds: This is also restricted to a certain extent, as the manner in which CSA funds work. For example, CSA 63 Zone 6 allocates $82,000 (2014 funds) for the operations and maintenance of Jim Williford Park. CSA 63 Zone 6 funds must be used for the Jim Williford Park. If RCSD can maintain Williford Park for $70,000 and they have $12,000 left over at the end of the year, then they are allowed to use that extra money elsewhere. CSA 63 Zone 5 funds must be used for the Westpark Swimming Pool, operating a pool is expensive and the allocation of $82,000 (2014 funds) did not cover all of the operating expenses; so the remaining $12,000 from CSA 63 Zone 6 is permitted to go to the pool fund, as it is a subset of the overall park complex. CSA 63 Zones 1 thru 4 all work the same way. If RCSD uses the funds efficiently and achieves a surplus, then they can use those surplus funds elsewhere.
Today’s Situation: Now that you have the background let’s come back to present day.
The current RCSD Board members have, from day one, had their eyes on the non-discretionary funds coming in from Kern County. As stated by the Kern County Grand Jury in the Final Report, “The District receives approximately $230,000 in ad valorem tax revenue which is discretionary revenue, and $82,000 from the County Service Area to pay for park and pool maintenance.” MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker, had plans to use this money to pay for the ($50,000 they illegally borrowed for the street lights) and any other “special interest” projects they had in mind. This is the SOLE REASON that the RCSD Board did not open the pool for the summer of 2015. The trio, led by Olaf said that by “not opening the pool it would free up that money to do other things” even though they were told by the accountant that 100% of the $230,000 needed to go to paying down the debt they could not take it and use it somewhere else, of course they disagreed. Ironically, with the Great Drought of 2013 – 2015 in full effect, the public was led to believe that the RCSD was “doing its part” in supporting diminished water use by closing the pool. Nothing could be farther from the truth and Ed, Olaf, and Dennis too no action to clarify the matter.
Previous RCSD boards, have traditionally intended to use surplus CSA money, the Rosamond Community Foundation, and money saved from giving United Street Park back to the Southern Kern Unified School District to pay back the $2,000,000 dollars borrowed from the water and sewer funds over the years. However; when discussing tradition with these three, that word doesn’t exist.
This is why 100% of the “ad valorem” and CSA funds is already spoken for until the $2,000,000 is paid back to the Water and Sewer Reserve.
For this very reason, the act of borrowing $50,000 from the restricted street lighting fund was illegal.
Even if, Olaf and his friends close all the parks, they still have access to no money, because those funds are already committed and the fact that they CHOSE to kill the Rosamond Community Foundation, they have no way to legally raise funds or receive donations. Bottom-line: THEY HAVE NO WAY TO PAY IT BACK!
I will now provide with you a factual timeline of their actions.
Actually it is not a timeline; it’s a path that the trio is probably using to “effectively” bankrupt Rosamond. With Steve Perez no longer in the picture, it’s almost like a kickoff returner in the Super Bowl on the 30 yard line running full speed with no defender in the way to slow them down, much less tackle them. According to an article I found at NPR.ORG, the article reads, “If a city or town declares bankruptcy, does it affect others nearby? Yes. Surrounding cities and towns can find it harder to borrow money for new projects because investors — who buy and sell bonds — will question their financial viability. That’s why states often intervene to prop up a faltering municipality and avoid the sting of bankruptcy.” The article continues, “Sometimes all it takes for a town or city to get help from the state capital is the mere threat of bankruptcy.” It reads like the ultimate way out of an overall bad situation… the article finishes with a foreboding statement, “It’s an instrument of getting attention and getting others to help you… (Weiner, E., 2008).”
During the research for this book, I became aware that Zion National Bank, of Salt Lake City, Utah actually holds a line of credit for the RCSD. The note was established as the outcome of a financial deal gone wrong when, according to a former RCSD Board Member, “The district acted in good faith to commit to constructing the water treatment plant…ultimately we found out that the email that we were presented represented an unfulfillable promise by a potential investor…because we had committed to the construction project based on an email promise, we ultimately had to seek external funding to the tune of $8.3 million dollars…to this very day, Zion Bank holds the future of Rosamond in their vaults.” The former Board Member went on to tell me that bankruptcy is not an option for the RCSD and “State of California regulators will come in and turn our town upside down if that line of credit were to ever default.”
January 29, 2015: Action Item B.: Discussion regarding the discretionary revenue source and the expenditure of the discretionary revenue. This was the meeting that District Accountant Brad Rockabrand told the Board members that if the money is not going to be used for parks and recreation; then it has to be used to pay down the previous loans from the water and sewer reserve.
February 11, 2015: Action Item D.: Discussion regarding giving Jim Williford Park to Southern Kern Unified School District, this is where they talked about having SKUSD take over Jim Williford Park and the swimming pool.
February 25, 2015: Action Item A.: Discussion regarding County Service Areas: 63.4, 63.5, and 63.6. Again this was looking for money to grab for other things.
RCSD refers to them a CSAs; Kern County refers to them as ”Zones of Benefit”; CSA 63.4 concerns landscaping maintenance (when I called Kern County to research this, I was told this CSA primarily involves the area near 40th Street West), CSA 63.5 concerns the Westpark Swimming Pool and CSA 63.6 concerns the Westpark Landscaping.
On a personal note, the county official I spoke with made a point to tell me several times that funds dedicated to a certain CSA zone of benefit, cannot be used for any other purpose (he also told me that he doesn’t get many phone calls asking about Zones of Benefit).
March 11, 2015: Action Item H: Discussion and possible action regarding the opening of Jim Williford Park Pool.
March 11, 2015: Action Item I: Discussion and possible action to convey Jim Williford Park to SKUSD.
March 11, 2015: Action Item M: Discussion regarding the financial position of CSA 63.4; CSA 63.5; CSA 63.6.
March 25, 2015: Action Item D: Discussion and possible adoption of Resolution 2015-4, regarding non-involvement of District Directors on Board of Directors of the Rosamond Community Foundation.
This was puzzling because The Rosamond Foundation was created by the RCSD as a 501(c)3 to fund parks and recreation through donations and grants and fund raisers and the by-laws were written so that sitting RCSD Board members were automatically seated on the foundation board. The MacKay-led RCSD board, wants nothing to do with the foundation and passed a resolution forbidding any RCSD Board member from serving of the RCF Board, unless they do it as a private citizen.
In other words the RCSD officially cut its ties with The Rosamond Foundation and therefore severing its ties with its only possible outside funding source the 501(c)3 Rosamond Foundation (TELL ME I AM NOT READING THIS? .THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE….) the vote passed 4 to 1 with Byron Glennan voting “No.”
March 25, 2015: Action Item E: Discussion and possible action regarding the opening of Jim Williford Park Swimming Pool. They voted to close the pool by a 4 to 1 vote.
Ironically, this brings us back to the Skate Park and all of the noise that Olaf and Mr. John Joyce (“The Rosamond News”) was making over the closing of a park that the RCSD had no control over.
As previously stated, SKUSD owns the property where the Skate Park was located and wanted the Skate Park gone. In a strange twist of logic, with MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker CHOOSING to close the pool (a completely voluntary act) without regard for the negative impact it ultimately had upon families and the youth or Rosamond.
In a strangely predictive move, “The Rosamond News” remained utterly silent on the issue and completely ignored the social issue of “boredom in a desert town” and looked the other way, when this town suffered days upon days of graffiti, vandalism and increased crime; possibly stimulated by “boredom”.
I think you are starting to see that either “The Rosamond News” is allegedly in the back pocket of the three newly elected Board members or the three board members are allegedly in the back pocket of “The Rosamond News” but someone is in somebody’s back pocket. (I think you could call that an allegedly mutually beneficial relationship).
March 25, 2015: Action Item F: Discussion and possible action to convey Jim Williford Park to the County of Kern they voted 4 to 1 to give the CSA 63.5 and Jim Williford Park back to Kern County.
NOTE: In the County of Kern Adopted Budget for 2014-15, CSA 63.5 (the Westpark Swimming Pool) was allocated $78,052.00. In layman’s terms, money that could have been only used for swimming pool operations and maintenance was returned back to Kern County.
April 21, 2015: Action Item A: Discussion and possible action to remove/separate the RCSD Foundation from the district premises and use of facilities. This was meant to be (what they considered to be the final “nail in the coffin” of the Rosamond Foundation but they had to amend their motion because if they banned the foundation, then they had to ban everyone…but never the less they booted the foundation.
May 27, 2015: Action Item B: Discussion and possible action to rescind the letter sent to Kern County regarding the termination of CSA 63.5 agreement. This action was taken because in their haste to unload the park back to Kern County it was discovered that the park had been “quit claimed” to the RCSD back in 2009. By voting the way they did back on March 25, 2015, they gave the County Services Area 63.5 money ($78,052.00) back to Kern County, yet; the RCSD is still stuck with Jim Williford Park operations and maintenance. As a result of their failure to ask questions and do their homework; they gave away the only funding source left for Jim Williford Park. As of today, the amateurish actions of the trio have resulted in an unpaid bill to ratepayers who are now “stuck” with a park that has no budget to provide routine maintenance and general upkeep.
In the County of Kern Adopted Budget for 2014-15, CSA 63.5 (the Westpark Swimming Pool) was allocated $78,052.00. In layman’s terms, money that could have been only used for swimming pool operations and maintenance was returned back to Kern County.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that this board is so blinded by their agenda that they are destroying everything in their path to fulfill it.
They closed the pool, severed ties and cut themselves off from the 501(c)3 Foundation, they voted to give the County Services Area 63 Zone 5 funds ($78,052.00) back to Kern County, it is obvious that they do not want anything to do with parks and recreation. Ultimately, they are convinced that the $220,000 is free money to spend how they wish. MacKay, Landsgaard and Shingledecker have alluded to having all that extra money available to do whatever with; but, that money is legally obligated elsewhere. They have even dismissed the opinion of their own accountant’s advice.
In the end, the joke is on us, Rosamond, this is a call to action!
=====================Finding # 21 states: “The District has approached the Kern County Board of Supervisors to terminate the agreement for the operation of the Rosamond Community Pool and Recreation Center; no money has been allocated to the 2015-2016 District Budget for recreational activities.”
The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 21: The Board agrees with this finding. The Board notes that it receives inadequate revenues to provide recreational activities and services.
To read the next section click here: The Midnight Writings: Finding 22 – “Wrapping it all up”.