Legslation could help to bail out GCSD

May 01, 2002 12:00 am

By MIKE JENSEN

A proposed bill that could forgive several hundred thousand dollars of debt owed to the state by the Groveland Community Services District is one step closer to being passed.

Last week AB 3056, submitted by Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, was approved by the Assembly Local Government Committee and sent on to the Appropriations Committee. Discussion on the bill in that committee has not yet been scheduled.

As a result of a Tuolumne County accounting error — also made by several other counties — several special districts were overpaid $1.3 million in the 1990s that should have instead gone to the state's Education Revenue Augmentation Fund.

Cogdill's bill calls for a flexible payback over 10 years.

For GCSD, hit hardest by the snafu in Tuolumne County, its debt could be reduced from $970,534 to as little as about $45,000, according to Tim Johnson, Tuolumne County's auditor-controller.

But Aaron Bone, a representative for Cogdill, said the formula is too "complicated" to calculate how much money the legislation might spare GCSD from paying the state.

And GCSD General Manager Jeff Winner said he doesn't know at this point how much money the district would be saved if the legislation passes.

"The good news is we're on first (base)," Winner said. "The question is, do we we stay there?"

The bill must be approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the full Assembly and then work its way through the Senate before being sent to the governor for his signature.

Meanwhile, ballots were sent last week to Groveland area property owners asking them to each pay a "special benefit assessment" tax of $70 or more per year to offset money the fire department lost after the ERAF error was corrected last year.

According to Winner, the district expects to collect about $230,000 per year if the tax is approved.

The ERAF correction has resulted in a yearly loss to the fire department of about $140,000 per year, according to Winner, assuming about $51,000 of that is set aside to repay the state and the rest represents how much less the county sends to fund the department compared to past years' allocations.