The History of Nipomo’s Incorporation Movement

In October 1999, the Nipomo Chamber of Commerce formally started the incorporation dialogue. They formed their own sub committee to research incorporation issues. Since that time, government officials, including the Nipomo Community Services District, and our 4th District Supervisor, Katcho have gone on record as supporting the Nipomo Incorporation Committee’s efforts. Since the original Chamber of Commerce Committee, there have been various permutations of the incorporation committee. The current Nipomo Incorporation Committee is a standing subcommittee of the South County Advisory counsel, made up of volunteer Nipomo residents.

The current incorporation committee, meets on an as needed basis with members in our community. In the past, the various permutations of the incorporation committee has met with local government and county government officials, including Katcho and several county department heads such LAFCO, the county tax collector and the county tax assessor. We, as a community have gained important insights from all of these government officials, who are supportive of our efforts.

On 1/8/03, the Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) formally joined the Cityhood movement by instructing staff to move forward on future fact finding about Cityhood. On 1/15/03 the NCSD board instructed staff to obtain request for proposals (RFP’s) to determine how much an initial feasibility study would cost. Such a study is a prerequisite to determine whether a city has sufficient revenue to operate.

On 2/15/05, Michael Davis of The Davis Company, submitted his final preliminary feasibility study on Nipomo’s incorporation. In February 2005, he projected Nipomo would not be fiscally feasible for seven to 10 years; however, his projections on sales tax revenues were very conservative. Current sales tax figures from San Luis Obispo County reflect that we are well ahead of Mr. Davis’ projections, which could mean that Nipomo’s fiscal feasibility for incorporation may be much sooner than thought.

The state board of equalization has provided sales tax revenues generated from our proposed Nipomo City. The current tax base is approximately $76.00 per capita, depending on the population base that is included in the city boundaries. Some consultants suggest a city needs this amount of base; however, an article a few years ago in the Santa Maria times, indicated that Guadalupe has a per capita tax base at less than half that amount. Furthermore, many cities in California have per capita tax bases of much less and are able to function. Based on the preliminary figures it appears Nipomo is rapidly approaching the sales tax base that will support incorporation.

It is important to note that these figures have steadily risen over the past seven years and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. This is a critical point, since we do not want to become a big city simply to incorporate. The ideal is to utilize our current and projected tax base, to protect and preserve our rural lifestyle.

Many obstacles still remain to any future incorporation. The legislative climate is still hostile for new incorporation. Communities all around California face the issue of “revenue neutrality” which in essence means that any incorporation cannot result in any lost revenue to the county in which the incorporation takes place. So any tax revenue the county loses, must be made up by the new city in payments or other financial arrangements. For new cities with a very large tax base this can be an almost impossible obstacle to overcome under current law; however, potential cities with a small tax base, would not be as affected. Furthermore, under current law, everything is negotiable between all the parties: the new city, the county, and LAFCO.

There were approximately 14 to 15 ad hoc incorporation committees, similar to Nipomo’s, all over California. At one time they banded together to form a statewide coalition to help support legislation to moderate the current hostile climate. They had some modest gains, but nothing too significant.

One of the things I personally would like to do with these incorporation posts is to help educate the Nipomo community on incorporation, including its advantages and disadvantages. So, if anyone who reads these pages has questions or suggestions for incorporation posts or information, please feel free to leave comments.

Many may ask why discuss incorporation? What are the benefits? The most important benefit is the ability of the local citizens of any newly incorporated city to determine their own future as a community. The most vigorous ongoing dialogue in our community is about our unprecedented growth. Another frequently asked question is whether incorporation will cause your taxes to increase. The answer is NO! State law requires all new cities to be fiscally viable before the issue can even be put to a vote before the people of the new city. Future taxes cannot be raised without approval by 2/3 of the voters.

Most Nipomo residents want to keep our community rural; however with the recent onslaught of development and proposed developments, there is a real threat to our current rural lifestyle. Incorporation would pull the protective blanket of city hood over our entire community and allow the citizens of Nipomo to elect local officials to implement land use decisions more in keeping with the rural community interests, and not the interests of the County Board of Supervisors.

Whether you are for or against the idea of incorporation for Nipomo, if you are so inclined, please leave a comment with your opinion. Or, leave questions if you have them. If I can answer them I will. If I can’t I’ll see what I can do to find the answer.


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