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Yuba leaders predict bright future
State of Things: Yuba County in 2013
This is the first in a series of stories looking at the State of Things in government, education and other services in Yuba and Sutter counties. We will be looking in a concise way at the opportunities and challenges facing those agencies who serve us. Today, reporter Ben van der Meer looks at the state of Yuba County government.
If Yuba County is a stock, county Assessor Bruce Stottlemeyer said he's buying.
"I think generally speaking, what's going to happen is a lot more predictable than where we've been," said Stottlemeyer, who assumed his office two years ago and has worked in assessments since 1987.
Property values have slowed or stopped the drops being experienced a few years ago, when the housing market, and with it, the whole economy, sank.
Agricultural land, in particular, has held up in value during the recession and even increased in some cases, Stottlemeyer said, a trend he predicts will continue. Commercial land is still appraising lower in many cases, but not as low as it was, he said. Propositions 8 and 13, passed in the late 1970s, compelled offices like Stottlemeyer's to not only limit property tax increases annually, but reassess properties downward when warranted.
California saw the first widespread decreases in the 1990s, he said, followed by increases until about six years ago.
"I think we've overcorrected from where we ought to be," Stottlemeyer said, pointing out with low interest-rates and some flexibility by lenders, there is potential for values to move upward.
"The unknown thing is it when it will transpire," he said.
Bendorf optimistic rebound ahead
As Yuba County rolls into the second half of the 2012-13 fiscal year, county Administrator Robert Bendorf said he is optimistic because of the past.
During the tough years of the Great Recession, county leaders committed to improvements in infrastructure and economic development readiness, and he is hoping those steps will begin bearing fruit this year.
"We think it does make a difference," Bendorf said, talking about levee upgrades and an active committee for economic growth.
But to keep seeing results, the county will have to keep at it, he said. For the new year, that includes working with Marysville to provide services, taking advantage of technology to save money and looking for grants to improve infrastructure in communities like Linda and Olivehurst.
The new year also brings new challenges, including changes by the state to programs such as Healthy Families to aid the needy, and the implementation of federal health care reform.
"That really affects the way we do business and the way we help our clients," Bendorf said.
Yet, if much of the county's financial troubles in the last half-decade began with the decline in housing, the road back may be reflected in improvements in that sector, he said.
Vasquez sees Yuba outpacing state
New Yuba County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andy Vasquez said he doesn't think 2013 has to be a year where the county lags behind California's overall economic recovery.
Because of past steps, he said, it could be a year where the county actually outpaces the state.
"There's a lot of positive things happening," said Vasquez, who was appointed to the board in 2009, when the recession may have been at its peak.
Now, Vasquez points to medical building construction in Marysville, new housing starts in Plumas Lake and the presence of county supervisors in prominent places on the Sacramento Council of Governments, the Regional Coalition of Rural Counties and trade missions with China.
"My take is, those are all good signs," said Vasquez, who added he has even heard talk of interest in buying the Peachtree Mall in Linda, devastated by the 1986 flood.
But Vasquez said there is no one sign he sees as more indicative of a positive direction than another. The best possible future for the county, he said, lies in a varied economy where no one sector or industry is the be all, end all.
"Yuba County's always been a survivor," he said. "We've seen things we have to do, and we've kind of buckled down and done them."
Monthly health insurance premium for a Yuba County employee with a family in 2013: $1,734.
County Administrator Robert Bendorf said for the county, the cost of doing business is still on the rise. In 2005, the same figure was $961, and for most employees, the rise has been 17 percent annually.
For the county, those figures are especially important because the county picks up 80 percent of the total cost, he said.
"You'll see health care costs continue to rule the day," Bendorf said, adding pension costs have also been rising since 2010, but health care has risen further.
Overall assessment roll for Yuba County property: $4.65 billion.
Ongoing reassessments of properties, in many cases lower than the previous assessment, have helped strip more than $1 billion out of the county's overall property value since 2006-07, when the figure was $5.77 billion, said county Assessor Bruce Stottlemeyer.
"There are still some properties that have to be reassessed," he said, projecting about 11,000 properties will get new values by the end of this fiscal year in June, up from 10,000 in 2011-12.
Property tax is the largest single source of revenues for the county, so large changes directly affect the county's fortunes.
In the 2012-13 budget, property taxes accounted for $17.8 million of the county's $24.4 million in General Fund revenue sources.
Single-family home permits through January of the 2012-13 fiscal year: 45.
County officials are hopeful after years of seeing more foreclosures than new homes being built, the tide may start to turn in 2013. County Administrator Robert Bendorf said the county hopes to match or even beat the 77 single-family home permits issued in 2011-12.
Overall, the county is on pace to match the 861 overall construction permits issued during the last fiscal year, and see a drop in foreclosures from the 442 recorded in 2012.
New homes being built corresponds to jobs, and if those homes sell, higher property values. As the county adds residents, it's also more likely to attract more housing and other types of businesses.
Numbers and developments to watch for in 2013:
• Yuba County unemployment rate, November: 15.1 percent, fourth highest in state.
• Budget deficit, beginning of fiscal 2012-13: $1.62 million.
• Overall county budget, 2012-13: $155.5 million.
• Number of employees for 2012-13: 874, down from 1,068 in 2007-08.
• Marysville Ring Levee to complete Phase I, see work begin near Binney Junction.
• Construction expected on new Yuba County Sheriff's Department in Marysville by midyear.
• Glove factory to begin production in Olivehurst by late summer.
• New interchange at Highway 70 and Feather River Boulevard in Plumas Lake slated to begin.
• Ongoing criminal justice realignment and start of federal health-care reform.
We asked our readers how they feel about Yuba County's prospects in 2013, and 131 people responded. The majority of respondents, 71 percent, are aged 30-60. For income, 42 percent of respondents said they make $50,000 to $100,000 per year, with 22 percent or respondents making $25,000 to $49,000 per year. Fifty-eight percent said they are married with children, with 17 percent married or in a relationship with no children. Some responses:
How do you feel about Yuba County's prospects in 2013?
• Our prospects are looking good, even though, like the rest of the state, we are in fiscal crisis, our county is in better shape than many other counties.
• I myself feel good about the county's prospects, but we need more large-scale employers.
• We have a long way to go until we see recovery. Unemployment in the area remains very high.
What should be the county's main focus in 2013?
• Cracking down on welfare fraud.
• Encourage new business, get property owners of rentals to keep those properties clean so homeowners' property values in the surrounding neighborhoods will not go down.
• Get more access to the Yuba River and take care of what we do have. Maintain Hammonton Road to give better access to fishermen. The wild steelhead are a worldwide asset if promoted properly.
• Balancing the budget without sacrificing law enforcement or firefighters and schools.
• Working hard getting the casino going.
Where could the county improve something from how it was done in 2012?
• The county should make shelters more easily available and accessible to those families who need it.
• Put more money into public safety and take care of the huge drug problem there.
• Please pay attention to why people are leaving this area and do something about this. You do collect a nice paycheck and can pay your bills but not everybody is that lucky. n Tear down the eyesores in Marysville! Get rid of the good ol' boy network and get some forward thinking leaders in office who will improve our county
• Restore the Fireworks show at Ellis Lake.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786.