I’M NOT SURPRISED – CITY DOESN’T WANT US LOOKING AT THE BOOKS
Last week our counsel, Kristine Thagard, requested a forensic audit of the City’s Tidelands Fund. This is a state required fund for the preservation and maintenance of the Tidelands. Since the City of Newport Beach is the “grantee” of the Tidelands the state allows the City to operate the Harbor with fees and taxes collected from residents, businesses, and tourists.
The Tidelands Fund can only be used for the Harbor – it can’t be used for any other municipal purpose.
For many years we have heard rumors that the City has used the Tidelands Fund for purposes other than those allowed by state law.
We don’t operate on rumor.
We wanted to give the City a chance to open the books to a transparent forensic audit, and Stop the Dock Tax would pay for half.
The City has denied our request claiming the Fund is audited every year and a new audit would be redundant and unnecessary.
While disappointing, this is not surprising.
Using the Public Records Act, counsel has requested the last five years Tidelands Fund audits conducted by the City. It’s a start and we will report to you our findings.
Chairman, Stop The Dock Tax
MAKE A NOTE:
STOP THE DOCK TAX – GENERAL MEETING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
OASIS SENIOR CENTER, 801 NARCISSUS AVE.
CORONA DEL MAR
Newport Beach’s Tidelands Fund has city officials, local owners at odds
The marina owners are protesting a large potential rent increase from the city, but their request for an audit was rejected recently.
By Mike Reicher
5:51 PM PDT, August 18, 2012
Newport Beach city officials recently rejected a request from a group of commercial marina owners who wish to audit the city’s Tidelands Fund.
Marina owners contend that the tidelands finances are mixed up with those of general city services, and they shouldn’t pay higher rent until the fund is inspected.
City officials have sought to wring more money out of mooring holders, businesses and other harbor stakeholders in recent years, as the city invests millions in dredging and other harbor projects. The marina owners are protesting a large potential rent increase from the city, which charges waterfront businesses that use public tidelands. The owners offered to pay for half of a forensic audit, but City Manager Dave Kiff says that the fund is already inspected.
“We don’t see the need to have the city’s taxpayers fund another audit (or half of another audit) of a major fund that already receives an annual public audit,” he wrote in an email.
Lawyers from an organization called Stop The Dock Tax sent the city a letter last week that claimed the city was “improperly allocating certain expenses.”
Because the tidelands are technically owned by the state, the city is required to reinvest any funds that come from the harbor back into the harbor.
“We believe there is significant waste in the Tidelands Fund that is driving the city council to impose a residential and commercial dock tax,” the group writes on its website.
The association’s tactics are similar to those of mooring holders who in 2010 lost their battle to prevent higher rent.
City officials say they need the additional income, and that the city is obligated to charge fair market rent for the land. The Tidelands Management Committee is finalizing a list of future projects that total about $100 million.
In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the city general fund paid $17.4 million in subsidies to the Tidelands Fund, according to its annual financial report.