Being an economically disadvantaged community may be an advantage when it comes to applying for funding, but Maxwell Parks and Recreations District officials said proving the community “fits that bill” has a price tag they currently can ill afford.
MPR officials and David Swartz, the board’s consultant, estimated at a public workshop last month that it would cost about $20,000 to complete an income survey, which would be necessary if the district plans to seek any kind of low-cost loan or grant funding in the future.
“Even Colusa is considered economically disadvantaged,” said MPR President Kyle Miller. “If Colusa is disadvantaged, then we know Maxwell is.”
Small communities are often left out of infrastructure improvement grants, officials said, because sample data used to establish medium household incomes by state and federal agencies is not attuned to capturing accurate data in small populations.
“Typically, its not very accurate and the medium household income in really, really high,” Swartz said, at the Aug. 13 workshop.
In 2014, the City of Colusa, for example, disputed the State Water Resource Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water’s determination that Colusa’s median income was $58,504, which the state had established in 2013, costing the city low-interest financing for a water quality project because the state mistakenly thought residents were financially better off than they actually were.
After being turned down, the city had the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) conduct an income survey, which showed Colusa’s median household income was actually $32,714.
The state accepted the results, and established Colusa as a severely economically disadvantaged community, which opened doors to a variety of financial opportunities, officials said.
Although a large park project is not on their new Capital Improvement Plan, MPR officials have not ruled out applying for funding from Proposition 68, the Parks, Environment, and Water Bond Act of 2018, a $4 billion bond that California voters passed in June to address the inequities in outdoor opportunities and parks in low-income communities.
Although outfitting a small neighborhood park is on the Capital Improvement Plan as a possible alternative to a large project, some MPR officials said they would actually prefer MPR seek Proposition 68 funding for a park similar to the LaVanche Hursh Park, in Arbuckle, which was built on railroad property from a similar bond passed in 2002, but only if the district can be brought out of deficit spending with an increase to the 1986 assessment on property of $15 per parcel.
“If you have severely disadvantaged status, first of all, there would be no such thing as a loan; it would all be grants,” Swartz said. “That, coupled with the community’s willingness to pass a Proposition 218, would really bump you up in the competitive nature of competing for those funds.”
According to Colusa County records, $1.2 million filtered into the county from Proposition 40 for a variety of projects, including $244,934 for the construction of the LaVanch Hursh Park, $115,000 for the Maxwell Little League Park, $42,533 for the Maxwell basketball program, $40,879,00 to the American Legion Hall, and the rest to a variety of other school and park projects in the county.
Although non-urgent items like a pool slide and solar panels at the pool are listed on the Capital Improvement Plan, which has not yet been prioritized and finalized, Swartz recommended at the Aug. 13 workshop that the income survey, which is on the plan, be the district’s first priority.
Swartz said if a group like RCAC performs the survey, Maxwell would likely be given severely disadvantage community status, which could dramatically change how the district proceeds with financing capital projects in the future.
“That’s my prediction,” he said.