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Parks districts reject merger after opposition by Mission Oaks residents

Ron Shilliday, supervisor of facilities and maintenance for the Carmichael Recreation and Park District cleans donor bricks on Thursday, September 15, 2011 before the opening of Jan Park. The Carmichael park district was considering a merger this year with the Mission Oaks Recreation and Park District, but both district boards backed away from that idea in the face of resident opposition in Mission Oaks.
Ron Shilliday, supervisor of facilities and maintenance for the Carmichael Recreation and Park District cleans donor bricks on Thursday, September 15, 2011 before the opening of Jan Park. The Carmichael park district was considering a merger this year with the Mission Oaks Recreation and Park District, but both district boards backed away from that idea in the face of resident opposition in Mission Oaks. rpench@sacbee.com

The boards of park districts in Carmichael and Mission Oaks have voted against a proposed merger, citing widespread community opposition.

While the votes are not binding, Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents the communities, said this week she will respect the desire of the districts and not pursue the matter further. Any such merger would have to go through the Board of Supervisors and the local area formation commission.

An independent study of the districts earlier this year recommended a merger, finding that it would reduce payroll and other administrative costs and increase services for residents. The study was funded by the county at the request of the districts’ administrators, according to Peters.

But many residents, especially in Mission Oaks, opposed the idea. They said the Mission Oaks district would get saddled with the financial problems of the Carmichael district.

In the face of opposition from board members at Mission Oaks and community members, Carmichael officials decided to give up, Carmichael parks administrator Tarry Smith said.

“It would not have been a good marriage,” he said.

Carmichael’s budget got tighter last year when a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the district did not follow state law when it pursued a property assessment. The assessment was narrowly approved by 51 percent of the vote. But the district failed to specify exactly how the money would be spent, making the assessment a general tax that would have required two-thirds support to pass, the judge ruled.

The district collected $1.3 million over two years but did not spend the money because of the lawsuit. The money will be refunded to property owners.

During an Aug. 1 joint meeting of the Mission Oaks and Carmichael boards, many residents cited Carmichael’s budget as reasons for opposing a merger, according to meeting minutes. More than 20 people addressed the boards, and nearly all of them either spoke in opposition or raised critical questions of the proposal.

One exception was Sacramento Metropolitian Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Peter Tateishi, a Mission Oaks resident. A combined district would provide better services to the community, he said, according to the minutes.

Mission Oaks board member Michael Alcalay said this week that he has always supported consolidation for the same reasons as Tateishi. But on Aug. 9 he went along with the rest of the board and voted against a merger because of community opposition, he said.

Eleven days later, the Carmichael board also voted unanimously against the merger. Smith said a majority of his board supported the idea, but backed off because of opposition from Mission Oaks board members and residents.

Both boards voted to support a secondary recommendation in the consolidation report. The recommendation calls for “select operational changes to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness of operations.”

Smith said the list of proposals is long, but some of the most important ones include increasing the percentage of program costs raised through fees, although not necessarily raising fees, and contracting for some services.

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