Responsibilities of a LAFCo Commissioner
What is LAFCo?
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) is an independent public agency with authority over local government agency changes of organization—that is, annexations, detachments, and consolidations of cities or districts, formation and dissolution of Special Districts, and incorporation and disincorporation of cities. Additionally, LAFCo is responsible for adopting a Sphere of Influence for each agency in the county. The Sphere of Influence is a plan for an agency’s probable future boundaries and should represent a logical growth plan for the agency.
The Commission is composed of two Special District Members (elected by the Indepen-dent Special Districts); two County Members (appointed by the Board of Supervisors); two City Members (appointed by the City Selection Committee); and a Public Member (appointed by the other LAFCo Commissioners). In addition, each category has an Alternate Member who votes in the absence of one of the members of that category. Alternate Members attend all meetings and participate in discussion.
The Commissioner’s Role
LAFCo Commissioners approve or deny proposals for changes in organization based on the procedures and standards of the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reor-ganization Act of 2000 (Government Code Sections 56000 et seq.). Additionally, LAFCo is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, as are all public agencies.
LAFCo Commissioners are required to file an annual Statement of Economic Interest, Form 700, as prescribed by the Fair Political Practices Commission, and to observe the LAFCo Conflict of Interest Code.
Commissioners, including alternates, are also required to complete two hours of ethics training in compliance with AB 1234 within one year of their election (County, City, and District members) or appointment (Public members) and every two years thereafter.
The Commission usually meets at 9:30 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month in Nevada City; meetings are occasionally held elsewhere and at other times. Commissioners are expected to attend all meetings and participate in the deliberation process. LAFCo also has an appointed staff to coordinate meeting logistics and to research and make recommendations on proposals before the Commission.
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LAFCos were created by the California Legislature in 1963 with regulatory and planning responsibilities to coordinate the timely development of local governmental agencies and their services while protecting agricultural and open-space resources. Most notably, this includes managing boundary lines by approving or disapproving proposals involving the formation, expansion, or dissolution of cities and special districts.
LAFCos also conduct studies to help inform their regulatory duties. This includes preparing municipal service reviews to evaluate the level and range of governmental services provided in the affected region in anticipation of establishing and updating cities and special districts' spheres of influence.
Markedly, spheres of influence designate the territory LAFCos believe represent the affected agencies' appropriate future jurisdictions and served areas and must be reviewed every five years. All boundary changes, such as annexations, must be consistent with the affected agencies' spheres of influence with limited exceptions. LAFCos are located in all 58 counties in California.
Yes. LAFCos are independent political subdivisions of the State of California tasked with administering a section of planning law known as the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act.
Yes. Each LAFCo is reasonable for fulfilling its regulatory and planning responsibilities outlined under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Goverment Reorganization Act consistent with its own adopted procedures and policies. Accordingly, a proposal may be appropriate in one county but not appropriate in another county based on local conditions and circumstances.
State law establishes a "pay-to-play" formula in terms of funding LAFCos. Any local agency whose council or board members are eligible to be commissioners must contribute funds to their LAFCos budget. In Nevada County, there are 24 Special Districts, two city agencies (City of Grass Valley and Nevada City), one town (Town of Truckee), and one county (Nevada County) who are responsible for the LAFCo's operational costs. Each agency pays a share which is proportional to it's general tax revenue.
Special districts serve important roles in growth management in California given they are responsible for providing a range of municipal services - such as, water, sewer, or fire - within particular areas, such as unincorporated communities.
Special districts fall into two categories, independent and dependent. Independent special districts have a board of directors elected by the voters residing within their boundaries. Dependent special districts have a board of directors appointed by other local agencies or whose board members are the Board of Supervisors (the Nevada County Sanitary District for example).
No. School districts fall under their own section of State law. LAFCos do not oversee school districts in anyway, although proposals for new school sites requiring the extension of municipal services are reviewed by LAFCos.