PSPRS Ad Hoc Committee Testimony
The following is the written testimony submitting by Supervisor Buster Johnson to the State’s Ad Hoc Dear Chairman Campbell: I have been a County Supervisor for Mohave County for the past twenty years. For the last two decades I have seen the State Legislature try and perfect our state retirement system. I do believe our state lawmakers understand the importance, and necessity, of wise stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. They know that a balanced budget is common sense in that only fools spend more than they take in. With that said though I must ask why has this allegedly Conservative elected body left Mohave County taxpayers on the hook for up to $80 million caused by poor management at the state level? Mohave County’s unfunded liability amounts for the Public Safety Retirement Pension System are over $20 million. The cities within our County are far worse off, owing over $100 million. Fire districts within our county are already maxed on their property tax rate. I am not sure how they will even afford to pay their portion of the debt without going bankrupt. It’s important to note that these are just preliminary numbers, and we could end up owing even more. Statewide the total liability is $7.7B, but once interest is added that total will double and total liability will be probably around $15B. Counties, cities and fire districts don’t just have millions lying around to pay off this debt. We are going to have to pay this amount off over time and by doing so accrue interest on the payments which could double the amount taxpayers owe. Counties were also notified that the State needs the Counties to pay up front for their portion of the refunds due to employees because PSPRS has outdated computer systems. Municipalities were told in April to stop the overpayments yet the State continued to incur interest because they had no way to stop the overpayment on their computer system. This is just another example of the State’s lack of financial responsibility coming back onto the counties. Over the past eight years, counties and cities have also been hit with state cost shifts. In fact, some have gotten so use to being mugged by our state officials that they are praising lawmakers this year for not taking more funds from us. This year, the state swept close to $750,000 from Mohave County’s General Fund and more than $100,000 in our county’s Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF). The State’s annual sweeps of local governments’ funds have been an ongoing problem that many local elected officials have learned to live with. They say, “We can cover it; just don’t rock the boat or they might take even more.” State sweeps added onto the $7.7 billion elephant in the room are forcing local municipalities to cut services and raise taxes while state lawmakers get viewed as the taxpayer’s hero for not raising a dime. This problem however is in no way the counties, cities or fire district’s … Continue Reading →
Johnson Submits Testimony on Monument Designation Legislation
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson submitted written testimony today to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in support of S. 437, the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act, and S. 1416, a bill designed to limit the authority to reserve water rights in designating a national monument. “I want to thank Senator Jeff Flake for introducing S. 1416 and both Senator Flake and John McCain for co-sponsoring S. 437,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. “Both pieces of legislation are crucial for Arizona and Mohave County residents by giving local government input and control when it comes to monument designations,” Johnson continued. S.437 would require input from Congress, state and local governments before a presidentially created monument can be approved. “With the President proposing to take executive action to designate nearly 1.7 million acres of land in northern Arizona as the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, this legislation is greatly needed,” Johnson stated during testimony. “Should the President go ahead with the executive action, it would be devastating for the future growth of Arizona and have a long lasting effect on Mohave County,” Johnson continued. Johnson also advocated for support of S.1416. “Water is becoming a scarce resource in Arizona. As it stands right now, if the President were to move forward with this proposed monument, it could have the potential to ‘federalize’ the area’s watershed and uproot critical water rights in Arizona and Mohave County,” Johnson explained. “This legislation would protect Arizona’s water by prohibiting the president from conducting water grabs by creating a new federally reserved right with a national monument,” Johnson said. Nearly 50% of Arizona is now being owned by the federal government and nearly 90% of Mohave County. There are currently 18 monuments in Arizona which is more than any other state has. “Designating land for a new monument will take away even more land in the Arizona Strip area putting it in the hands of the federal government and away from the taxpaying citizens of this state,” Johnson stated. According to Johnson, the 2000 Presidential designation of the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument has not added to the beauty or economy of Arizona. “The only thing it has done has placed “keep out signs” on the land barring our citizens from making a living or enjoying the land,” Johnson said. “Protecting our lands can be enhanced with current mining operations and off roaders who want to preserve our lands for future generations to experience. Working together will protect the land far better than no trespassing signs,” Johnson continued. The Energy and Natural Resource Committee is looking for local input from business and organizations. If anyone is interested in submitting their input for the record, they can send comments to Supervisor Johnson’s office by emailing his Administrative Assistant, Sarah Hall, at email@example.com. Those comments will then be forwarded to the committee. The deadline to submit input is October 6th. To read the text of the bills, S. 1426 can be read here: … Continue Reading →
Poll Workers Needed for General Election
Lake Havasu City, AZ – The Mohave County Elections Department is seeking poll workers for the November 8th General Election. According to Supervisor Buster Johnson, signing up as a poll worker is a great opportunity for folks who are interested in learning how the Election process works. “The Election process is the backbone of American society,” Johnson stated. “Part of what makes America great is the people’s right to choose their leaders and the people’s right to be involved in the process,” Johnson continued. For the 2016 Election, the Mohave County Election’s Department has consolidated all the Precincts in Mohave County to just 24. For Lake Havasu City voters, there will be six options on Election Day and 1 polling place for those in the Desert Hills area. According to Supervisor Johnson, there are 4 locations for Lake Havasu South and 2 for Lake Havasu North. “Due to the consolidation of the precincts, the Elections Department is seeking 12 to 14 poll workers per polling site to ensure a fast and smooth process for voters,” Johnson stated. Each polling location is made up of an even split between Republicans, Democrats and individuals from another party affiliation such as a Libertarian or a Green Party Members. For those interested, the job is an all-day affair usually lasting from roughly 5:30 a.m. until possibly 9:00 p.m. Poll workers are compensated for their time and will receive $105. Those hired as Inspectors will get $120. In order to receive compensation, poll workers are required to attend a local training session prior to the election as well as participate in election set up the day prior. Anyone who is interested in becoming a poll worker should call the Mohave County Elections Office at (928) 753-0733, option 2, and ask for Nancy Krahulec.
Corporation Commission Expedites the Value-of-Solar Findings in Unisource Case
Lake Havasu City, AZ – The Arizona Corporation Commission in a 4 to 1 vote, with Commissioner Robert “Bob” Burns voting no, passed phase 1 of Unisource Energy Company’s rate change application. In a compromised amendment this afternoon, Commissioners agreed to Unisource’s proposal to raise the base fee to $15 from the current $10 fee. For those who opt-in to the electric company’s time of use plan the base fee will only go up to $12. “Back in April, Unisource dropped its demand charge proposal for all customers. While this was a victory for ratepayers, the implementation of raising the base fee for customers is not justified or warranted,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. Unisource’s original application asked for a customer base charge increase of $10. The $5 increase was a compromise between Unisource, the Corporation Commission, and other concerned parties. Unisource Energy serves about 90,000 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz County. “A $5 increase would equal more than $450,000 more a month for the utility company,” Johnson said. “That is a $5.4 million a year increase!” Johnson stated that he saw nothing that would warrant this 50% increase. “We should not be satisfied with this compromised deal!” Johnson stated. Johnson also fears a move towards new time of use plans may end up costing residents more. Under Unisource’s plan, current ratepayers will see a $3 savings in their base fee should they chose a time of use plan. New customers will automatically be put onto the plan with the option to opt-out. The plan rewards households for using kilowatts during offpeak hours and penalizes them for using kilowatts during onpeak hours. Under the current rate structure, ratepayers pay a flat rate for all hours. “For working parents, going onto a time of use plan may be difficult. Our lives should not revolve around what hours are best for the Electric Company. Onpeak hours are going to be those hours when the kids get home from school, when dinner is being cooked, and when laundry need to be done for the next day,” Johnson stated. Uniource’s current time of use plan has onpeak hours from 2pm-8pm on weekdays. Aside from the rise in the base fee, Commissioners approved an amendment that would raise solar customer’s rates $1.58 per month to cover additional meter costs. Unisource’s original proposal had asked for a $7 increase. The Commissioners also said further analysis of the value of solar will need to take place before proceeding with changes to net metering. Unisource argued that postponing a delay on changes in solar customer’s rates would just be pushing the can further down the road. Commissioner Andy Tobin made an amendment to ensure that did not happen by requiring the investigation to be done by October, and Chairman Doug Little made an amendment to expedite the value-of-solar findings to be addressed by March. To read all the amendments and documentation in the case please visit: http://edocket.azcc.gov/Docket/DocumentDetailSearch?docketId=18997#docket-detail-container1
National Association Names Johnson Vice Chair of Cyber Committee & Adopts Johnson’s Public Lands Sponsored Resolutions
Long Beach, CA. – The National Association of Counties (NACo) held their Annual Conference this month in Long Beach, California. During the conference, NACo members adopted a new American County Platform, passed resolutions, and announced their 2016/2017 Leadership and Steering Committee Appointments. Supervisor Buster Johnson was named as one of the Vice-Chairs of NACO’s Information Technology Standing Committee, and also had two resolutions adopted as part of NACo’s national American County Platform along with one resolution on Uranium Mining being accepted. According to NACo, their County Platform is their permanent policy documents whereas resolutions must be written and adopted every year. NACo’s IT Standing Committee, originally called NACo’s Cyber Security Task Force, was launched in 2012 as a public/private partnership to protect county government networks and residents from online computer crime. “With today’s advancing technology, it is important that county officials understand the importance of cyber security,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Counties are a crucial resource when it comes to public information and information sharing which makes it so important for counties to ensure the taxpayer’s information is secure and safe,” Johnson continued. Supervisor Johnson is also a member of NACo’s Public Lands Steering Committee and sponsored two resolutions dealing with Public Lands. The first resolution he sponsored was in support of the Historic Routes Preservation Act, which is a bipartisan bill that would provide an administrative means for the federal government to confirm rights-of-way on public lands administered by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. NACo’s National County Platform has always taken a stance on supporting the maintenance and enhancement of public access to public lands. Instead of adopting the resolution, NACo included the language for the resolution in their overall County Platform. “This is a major accomplishment,” Johnson stated. “Not all resolutions end up apart of the overall County platform. By adding into the platform, it shows that the overall voice of counties throughout the nation support preserving our historical right of ways,” Johnson continued. Another resolutions sponsored by Supervisor Johnson, which passed unanimously during the Conference, was in support of uranium activities. In 2012, the Secretary of Interior, withdrew one million acres of the nation’s highest grade uranium ores from mineral entry in Northern Arizona. According to a report by the American Clean Energy Resource Trust, this was a $29 billion hit to local economies in Mohave County and in Southern Utah. “This ban took away much needed jobs from our area. Uranium mining would have brought in nearly 1,078 new jobs to the Arizona strip area with a $40 million annual payroll,” Johnson explained. Included in the NACo platform was also language requiring full coordination with locally affected interests when it came to national monument designations and full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. “Without full funding for PILT, Arizona counties will be forced to shift federal responsibilities to local tax payers or drastically cut essential services such as education, law enforcement, and road maintenance,” Johnson stated. During FY15, Mohave County received roughly … Continue Reading →
Lake Havasu Wildlife Refuge Gets New Management
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to inform the public that as of Monday the Lake Havasu Wildlife Refuge is under new management. The Wildlife Refuge’s Deputy Manager, Daryl Magnuson, has taken over as acting Manager. “I look forward to working with Mr. Magnuson and hope we can rebuild our relations with the Refuge,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Relations between the Refuge and local government have been estranged over the past few years, and I am hopeful that with new management communication can start to take place again,” Johnson continued. According to Johnson, Linda Miller, the prior Refuge Manager’s, last day was Friday. She has been reassigned to the Yuma office. “Federal, state and local officials along with myself and concerned citizens have been calling for her resignation since she closed off parts of Lake Havasu City waterways under the Refuge jurisdiction over a year ago,” Johnson stated. “The boating restrictions implemented were done so without any communication or notice to local officials or citizens. More than $252.8 million is contributed to Mohave County’s economy through boating recreation on Lake Havasu. No documented evidence was ever presented to prove that these activities were causing any harm to the wildlife or natural preserve of the Refuge,” Johnson explained. “I am hoping with Mr. Magnuson communication between the Refuge and local government can start to take place again,” Johnson said. Mohave County has already begun actively engaging Mr. Magnuson in regards to another issue in the Golden Shores/Topock area. According to Public Works Director Steve Latoski, an Environmental Assessment (EA) that was done for the County will need final approval from the Refuge to remove an existing manmade berm upstream in the Sacramento Wash. Removal of this berm will help to restore the wash to its historical flow path. “The EA report is done and in the USFWS hands for review. We anticipate USFWS concurrence with the EA findings of no significant impact by the end of this year so that the County’s offsite project can proceed concurrent with the Oatman bridge project,” Latoski stated.
Supervisor Johnson Testifies at Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2663
Lake Havasu City, AZ –Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson was invited to Washington D.C. this week by the Committee on Natural Resources to testify in support of Congressman Gosar’s Bill H.R. 2663. This legislation, titled the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2015, presents a bipartisan opportunity to expand renewable energy development on public lands, while at the same time maximizing benefits to states and counties. “In large public lands counties of the west, like Mohave County, the costs of providing essential services on public lands can be significant. This legislation establishes a distribution where 25% would be shared with county governments. For counties, revenue sharing is a critical component of this bill,” Supervisor Johnson said during his testimony to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Johnson testified before the Subcommittee on behalf of himself as Vice Chair of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, the National Association of Counties (NACo), as Chairman of the QuadState Local Government Authority and as Co-Chair of the Arizona/Utah Economic Development Coalition. H.R. 2663 establishes a new revenue structure which would distribute royalties to affected states, affected counties, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the “Renewable Energy Resource Conservation Fund.” “Sharing royalties with counties will help provide local taxpayers with additional relief from the costs associated with tax-exempt federal land and it will provide the much needed resources we need to provide critical infrastructure and services on public lands,” Johnson explained. A recent University study found that if this bill were enacted Mohave County would receive $519,375 in royalty payments from existing renewable energy projects. Supervisor Johnson has chaired numerous State and National committees focusing on renewable energy development over the years and is well aware of the challenges renewable energy developers face when it comes to developing on public lands. “This legislation creates a straightforward and streamlined permitting process for renewal energy development on federal lands. Simply put, there is no reason for the BLM to take several years to permit a project when our county offices can issue permits in weeks,” Johnson said. Mohave County’s climate and landscape offers some of the highest solar and wind energy potential in the nation. “In public lands counties, the single greatest barrier to project development is the protracted federal permitting process which is simply not an issue on private lands. The streamlining provisions included in the bill will lead to faster turnarounds, and will help create good paying jobs, diversify rural economies, and spur economic growth,” Johnson stated. “I would like to thank Congressman Gosar for his leadership and for the introduction of this much needed legislation,” Supervisor Johnson ended. H.R. 2663 currently has 68 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives including the entire Arizona Congressional Delegation. To read the full text of the bill please click here: http://gosar.house.gov/sites/gosar.house.gov/files/GOSAR_080_xml_0.pdf
Press Release: Unisource Drops Demand Charge Proposal for Non-Solar Customers
Lake Havasu City, AZ – In Lake Havasu City this past month, hundreds of individuals spoke out against Unisource’s Rate Proposal Case that would have implement demand charges on all residential electric bills. A proposal Supervisor Buster Johnson said could have raised residential bills by more than $30 a month. In response to the overwhelming opposition, Unisource has released a statement that they will not continue to pursue demand charges on non-solar customers. “I want to thank everyone who came out against this proposal. It is obvious that they have heard the voices of Mohave County residents,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. “While Unisource is dropping demand charges for all customers, they are still intending on asking the Corporation Commission for an increase in the base charge fee and to implement demand charges on new solar customers,” Johnson continued. Unisource Energy serves about 90,000 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz County. In their proposal, they are asking the Arizona Corporation Commission to allow them to raise the customer base charge from the current $10 a month fee to $20. “This ten dollar increase would equal $900,000 more a month for this utility company,” Johnson stated. “We cannot be just satisfied with them dropping the demand charges. This increase is still left in their proposal and is still not justified or warranted. I still encourage people to file opposition against their proposal, and let them know that Mohave County residents do not want any type of unjustified increase,” Johnson continued. While non-solar customers won’t see demand charges implemented, new solar customers will see demand charges if Unisource’s proposal is approved. New solar customers would also see a change in net metering. Currently, UniSource solar customers get paid the full retail rate for excess power their solar panels send back to the grid. The proposal would drop the rate by about half, down to the rate the utility pays to purchase power from large-scale solar arrays. Mohave County’s overwhelming “no” on Unisource’s proposal was also heard by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Both Commissioners Doug Little and Bob Burns wrote letters earlier this month asking the parties involved to provide other options aside from demand charges. “Lake Havasu City is a retirement community for thousands of senior citizens and a second home to several winter visitors from across the U.S. This extra high charge will be almost impossible for residential ratepayers to control,” Supervisor Johnson said to the Commission during testimony earlier this month. Unisource’s revised proposal will still need final approval from the Corporation Commission. A decision is expected this coming June.
ADWR Approves County Request to Make Northwest Basin Planning Area a Top Priority
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to inform the public of a recent letter sent to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) approving the County’s request to have the Northwest Basin Planning Area listed as a top priority under the State’s current water initiative. “Mohave County has some of the largest groundwater aquifers in the State, and ensuring that the Northwest Basin is a top priority in Arizona’s Strategic Vision for Water Supply is crucial for future sustainability,” Supervisor Johnson stated. Governor Doug Ducey’s Water Initiative for the State involved ADWR identifying and prioritizing 22 planning areas across the State. The Mohave County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Director Thomas Buschatzke in February asking for the Northwest Basin Planning Area to receive immediate action by the State. ADWR’s reply to the County stated that after review they have determined that the Northwest Basin Planning Area will be included in the first year of work under the Initiative. According to the letter, ADWR staff will begin working on development of a stakeholder list and have the first stakeholder meeting to initiate the Planning Area process this summer. “These meetings will help everyone involved to find ways to refine water supply and demand components and identify strategies to meet future water demands,” Johnson stated. Arizona’s Strategic Vision for Water Supply Sustainability provides a comprehensive water supply and demand analysis for Arizona. Recent studies have identified the potential for a long-term imbalance between available water supplies and projected water demands over the next 100 years if no action is taken. The Strategic Vision creates the framework for the development of potential strategies to address the projected imbalances. It provides context for maximizing the effectiveness of these strategies to address the needs of multiple water users across the State. For more information on the Water Initiative please visit: http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Arizona_Water_Initiative/index.htm
Supervisor Johnson Submits Opposition to Unisource’s Rate Structure Proposal
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson submitted opposition today in regards to Unisource Electric’s rate structure case before the Arizona Corporation Commission. If approved, Supervisor Johnson strongly believes residents of Mohave County serviced by Unisource Electric could see their electric bill increase to nearly $30 a month with added demand charges. “Not only is Unisource asking the Corporation Commission to raise the base customer charge from $10 to $20 a month, they are asking them to add a third component to residential bills known as a demand charge,” Supervisor Johnson explained. “By doing this ratepayers will be charged based off their peak hourly energy use instead of only on their overall energy usage every month,” Johnson continued. The case before the Arizona Corporation Commission held hearings in Tucson on Tuesday and is expected to hold an open hearing in Kingman on March 31st. The Commission will make a final decision regarding Unisource’s proposal in June. According to Johnson, demand charges, while a commonplace for commercial and industrial customers, are rare nationwide for residential consumers. “This extra high charge will be almost impossible for residential ratepayers to control unless they go out and spend hundreds of dollars on smart plugs and sensors to monitor activity such as how much energy output a crockpot or coffee maker is producing every hour,” Johnson stated. “Tying residential usage to the highest hourly energy use during a billing period does not make sense,” Johnson continued. In Johnson’s letter to the Commissioners, he recommended that the Corporation Commission reevaluate the cost structure in relationship to alternative energy. “In 2006, the Commission required electrical utilities to obtain 15% of their retail generated energy from renewable resources by 2025,” Johnson explained. The Commission’s 06 ruling also required that the utilities obtain 6% by 2016. “By doing this, the Commission forced electric companies to use solar energy which is one of the most expensive forms of electricity out there right now,” Johnson explained. According to research provided by the US Department of Energy, the cost of solar energy averages around 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. With the price of natural gas currently down, traditional electricity averages 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour and nuclear energy averages 2.5 to 3 cents. “The 15% requirement is putting a financial burden on electric companies as they rush to meet this deadline,” Johnson stated. “If the Commission is going to demand that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable energy, they should let the electric companies use the cheapest form out there which right now is clean nuclear energy. These companies shouldn’t be forced to only choose the most expensive which right now is green energy,” Johnson continued. “On top of that, more folks are turning to solar to generate power as well as other means to save on electrical costs. If the Corporation Commission would relook at their 2006 ruling and lower state’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tarrif requirement, the burden on electrical companies would be lowered resulting in … Continue Reading →