Almanac

News - July 31, 2013

Grand jury: County misled public about its finances

The San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury issued a report July 22 that says the county did not publicly report the true condition of its finances when tax measures were voted on in the June 5 and Nov. 6, 2012, elections.

The report, "An Inconvenient Truth About The County's Structural Deficit," says that contrary to public perception, the county does not have a "structural deficit" when it counts all revenues it receives annually.

The grand jury says the county Board of Supervisors excluded Education Revenue Augmentations Funds when it calculated the so-called "structural deficit."

Visit tinyurl.com/Grand-722 to see the grand jury report.

In a 785-word response, County Manager John Maltbie said the grand jury's conclusion — that the county is not fully accounting for its revenue — is "bizarre."

"Either the grand jury was uninformed or misinformed regarding the County's use of this funding source," Mr. Maltbie said. "Of course we'll never know because we'll never learn about their deliberations."

Much of his response is a criticism of the secrecy of the grand jury, and the fact that its members are not required to submit financial disclosure statements, as public officials must, so the public can be aware of conflicts of interest.

At issue is the use of excess ERAF (Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds). Mr. Maltbie defines them this way: "In a nutshell, the County and local cities get back some of their property tax revenue that is used by the state to meet its obligations to fund local schools when these revenues are in excess of the amount needed by the schools."

He said the county takes a conservative approach to budgeting uncertain funding sources, such as excess ERAF. The county budgets about half of what it expects to receive in excess ERAF, he said. The other half is used for reserves or other one-time purposes.

Visit tinyurl.com/Grand-723 to see the text of Mr. Maltbie's response.

Comments

Posted by Concerned Taxpayer, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm

The URL for the Grand Jury report is broken. Try the following:

Web Link

Based on my reading of both, and understanding of local taxes, this was an egregious misrepresentation of the County's current revenue situation by the Board of Supervisors.

The effect, by the way, of Excess and Insufficient ERAF is most profoundly felt by our County's disadvantaged school children.


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