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Galt high schools could be annexed soon

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Posted: Saturday, April 13, 2013 12:00 am

Liberty Ranch and Estrellita high schools could be annexed into Galt city limits more quickly than usual due to a loophole in state law.

Currently, the schools are not covered by the Galt Police Department, and the Galt Joint Union High School District pays higher water and sewer rates because they are outside the city's boundaries.

Instead of waiting to be included in an upcoming annexation through nearby housing developers, district officials are looking into the process for annexing the district's newest high school sites after Galt City Councilman Curt Campion brought to their attention a way to do it without using environmental consultants, which can be expensive and slow.

"It's an issue of public safety," Campion said regarding annexation. "The first responder is not Galt Police, although they do respond on mutual aid, but the Sheriff's department takes over once they get on scene."

There is a provision in the California Environmental Quality Act that allows already developed property to be annexed into a city without performing new environmental impact reports, as required by state law and agencies such as the Local Area Formation Commission that overseeing annexations.

Before they were built, the properties for both high schools already underwent EIRs.

Instead of a oneto two-year process, using the provision could take only a couple of months and cost quite a bit less, Campion said, adding that the only cost to the district would be the processing fees with LAFCo, the Sacramento County agency that oversees and ultimately approves annexations.Typically, consultants are the largest expense, and their work takes the most time when annexing property.

Campion used the CEQA provision some 20 years ago when he was a city employee, he said.

"My whole point was bringing this to their attention," he said.

Campion has met with district representatives, as annexation of the school sites was a campaign issue for him. He was elected in November 2012.

"It looks like it could work, although I'm not saying it's a sure thing," he said. "I think it's a good thing if that's the direction the school board wants to go."

There could be a financial benefit, too.

The district has an agreement with the city for water and sewer and pays 25 percent more for services than businesses within city limits, according to City Manager Jason Behrmann.

Annexation would provide a cost savings, Campion said.

Superintendent Matthew Roberts said high school district staff is looking at the fiscal aspects of annexation. He discussed it with school board members on Tuesday during closed session.

"We are always trying to plan for future growth in the area, and future development," he said. "Annexation is one part of that picture."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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