By Karen M. White 12/30/2021
Decisions by residents of Oceano/Halcyon will direct major actions taken by the local Community Services District in 2022. As newly named president of the Oceano Community Services District (OCSD), I thank you in advance for your upcoming involvement, as well as the support provided by the community in 2021.
Voters must decide in the June primary election how the community wishes to fund its emergency medical/fire services. The OCSD board majority voted to put another special tax measure on the ballot. It is identical to a 2020 proposal, supported by a majority of 66 % of voters. It fell only 10 votes short of the required 67% passage. With this support in mind, the OCSD is again asking for a property tax increase of $180 a year to fund the present revenue shortfall.
This will keep Oceano’s fire station fully staffed with three Five Cities Fire Authority firefighters. It is currently only staffed two-thirds of the time with two firefighters and part of this cost is being covered by OCSD reserves. That cannot be sustainable much longer. Property taxes currently generate approximately $1 million. Another $400,000 is needed to keep Oceano’s fire station operational full time as a part of the FCFA team with Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach.
Even before the mid-year election, Oceano/Halcyon residents will be asked to decide how they want their services district divided. It must be split into five separate divisions, according to decisions based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2002. Although the individual divisions will be small (about 1,400 persons each), the district has no choice in making the splits because of threats of legal challenges. There is strong belief, across the state, this will allow those who participate in the voting process better representation in community affairs. Voters will only choose from the candidates who reside in their division. There will be no district-wide voting or an opportunity to vote for more than one candidate, as in the past. The OCSD board has set two meetings in March to determine the division maps. The district’s website contains information on how residents can provide input into the “divisioning” process, including a computer program so individuals can map their ideas of how the divisions should be formed. I feel the best outcome is that divisions develop into strong “neighborhoods,” where everyone knows that one person who is their voice on the OCSD Board. Terms of two Board members are ending in November and candidates will come from two of the new divisions.
Work also continues implementing the Water Capital Improvement Program, involving work by both the OCSD staff and outside contractors. Residents approved a water rate increase in 2020 to help fund these efforts, with funding also generated by $3 million in state and federal grants thus far. District staff continues to seek additional grant opportunities.
As a reminder, the OCSD only provides water, sewer, emergency medical and fire, garbage, and lighting services for Oceano and historic Halcyon. It has the power to provide recreational programs, but funding is not available. It does not provide police, street, drainage, or planning services. Those responsibilities fall to San Luis Obispo County.