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San Bernardino County Governing Board Calls for Independent Financial Review of Consolidation Plan.

County LAFCO Commissioners express need for impartial economic analysis before proposed consolidation debate moves forward

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- At its regular meeting Wednesday, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) of San Bernardino called for an independent analysis of the financial data regarding the proposed consolidation between the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District (SBVWCD) and the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (MUNI). The Commission voted unanimously to address financial inconsistencies in prior reports and directed staff to hire a neutral financial analyst to prepare a full accounting review of both agencies.

"The Water Conservation District has complete respect for LAFCO's role in creating government efficiencies in San Bernardino County," said SBVWCD General Manager Robert Neufeld. "But we believe a truly independent review of the financial expenses and revenue of both agencies is the most important step in forming a decision which we believe could negatively impact San Bernardino County residents. To date, we have not seen any data that supports consolidation."

Since 2006, LAFCO of San Bernardino has been reviewing a proposal to consolidate SBVWCD and MUNI. One area of controversy surrounding the proposed consolidation is the financial examination by LAFCO staff to date. SBVWCD representatives have repeatedly called for an independent audit on the subject, citing a nearly $700,000 loss in groundwater revenue as a crucial component to the debate.

"We use that $700,000 in revenue to recharge the local water basin," said SBVWCD Board President Melody McDonald. "Without an answer to what happens to recharge efforts without that fee, we don't believe anyone can have a true understanding of the implications of this proposed consolidation."

SBVWCD believes its core mission is at stake if consolidation moves forward.

"Our goal for nearly a century has been to conserve and protect the local water supply," added Neufeld. "So far, the numbers have not added up and therefore we are simply not convinced a consolidation of our agencies in any way protects this critical mission. Rather, it radically compromises water quality in the Inland Empire by forfeiting the only guarantee our region has that local water stays local."

SBVWCD officials say they are encouraged by this latest development and are looking forward to the independent economic review, which they expect to begin within the next 2-3 weeks.

CONTACT: Robert Neufeld, General Manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, +1-909-793-2503
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 23, 2009
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