A self-described “policy geek,” El Dorado Hills Community Services District board member Noelle Mattock asserts that her job as a legislative analyst provides a valuable window into what’s going on in Sacramento. The 43-year-old running for second term said she brings a wonky ability to grasp and explain a wide range of complex legislation, be it the state budget or local landscape and lighting assessments, that affects the CSD and its residents.
Mattock’s roots run deep. Her parents moved to St. Andrews Village when she was 2 years old. She attended Jackson Elementary, Rescue Junior High and Oak Ridge High School, where she swam, played softball and volleyball.
After a stint at San Jose State, Mattock returned to the Sacramento area. A few years later she enrolled at Sacramento State with plans to become a teacher when she took an administrative job with the state. She bounced between departments, then landed in the Health and Human Service Agency’s legislative unit, where she got her first real exposure to government’s inner workings.
“The legislative process … the way policy formation worked … it was a whole new world,” she said. “I realized this is what I want to do.”
She dove into a Masters in Public Policy and Administration program at Sac State. While completing her studies, she was hired to run the local office of global infrastructure and engineering consultants CH2M Hill, and was later promoted to senior analyst — the position she holds today.
Mattock describes her job as “analyzing legislation and how it affects our industry, our clients and the organizations we work with,” something she said she was born to do.
She feels similarly about her role on the CSD board.
Special districts have become a special interest of Mattock’s. Shortly after being elected to the CSD board she volunteered for the California Special Districts Association’s legislative unit, and was soon voted onto the board.
She currently sits on its legislative committee, where she develops education programs aimed at helping first-time special district board members. She was recently voted onto the association’s executive committee.
Mattock admits she’s not comfortable in the limelight. Her job lets her to dig into legislation but doesn’t typically require her to stand up and promote it. Her role on the CSD board affords no such luxury.
In a lengthy Village Life interview, Mattock said only the love of her hometown got her to step into the limelight. “That’s how much I care about this place.”
She was elected four years ago and found an organization with huge communication problems, Mattock said. “We had entire departments here in silos,” she explained adding that the organization also lacked strategic planning, especially succession planning, and had minimal reserves.
The CSD had become a victim of building to the Master Plan rather than listening to residents; a problem that continues today, Mattock said. “The Master Plan has to be a working document.”
Mattock applauded Lake Forest Owners Association President Ray Meyers’ proactive efforts on behalf of Windsor Park advocates who wanted a modest, grassy park to replace the hardscrabble eyesore that stands in counterpoint to the rest of Francisco Boulevard’s landscaping.
Mattock said she enjoyed the park building in her first term, seeing the popular Steven Harris Park improved and especially gussying up El Dorado Hills Boulevard, all “the fun stuff,” she said.
But she enjoyed “the cool wonky stuff,” even more.
She cited “right-sizing” the budget as the board’s largest accomplishment. She’s proud of the fact that salaries and benefits, which were at 64 percent of revenues and headed toward 74 percent, she said, were reduced to 46 percent.
Belt tightening measures included sometimes-painful staff reductions, mostly through attrition. Front desk hours were reduced. Major positions were left vacant.
One of the larger challenges was getting the Parks Department to reprioritize its efforts, to focus on projects with greater tangible benefits, while postponing many others, Mattock added
The district’s reserve policy suggests a rainy-day fund of three months of operating expenses. The capital deficiency reserve was just $50,000 in when Mattock and Guy Gertsch (also running for a second term) took office. In the last four budget constrained years they’ve increased that to $4.4 million, she said.
The move not only brings the district into compliance with the Nexus Study, which dictates developer fees, but also protects the district’s reserves from the state.
One of the more confusing aspects of district policy is the complex and inconsistent collection of landscape and lighting assessment districts which fund maintenance of neighborhood entryways, parks and streetscapes.
CSD critics have called for the entire LLAD system to be redrawn, which would require district-wide voter approval of a nightmare ballot measure that would ask most residents to pay higher assessments. For that reason, boards have left the issue alone and most board members have been reluctant to discuss it. Not Mattock.
“If something needs to be fixed, do you just leave it broken?” she asked. “That’s not good government.”
She proposes an incremental reform of the LLAD system in El Dorado Hills, starting with aligning the level of service in each local district to the money generated by its assessment.
“The smart move isn’t always the global fix,” she said. “Sometimes you have to make small, incremental decisions to get where you want to be.”
Once service levels are aligned with revenues, she said, “If people don’t like the way things look, they can vote themselves a higher assessment.”
She points out the realities of the housing devaluation and resulting reassessments.
“We saw 15 percent of our property tax revenues disappear forever,” said Mattock. “We had to do some things to balance the budget, and we should do even more.”
The realities of the equity drop and resultant revenue loss are even more dramatic when the annual state revenue grab known as ERAF is factored in. The most recent district financial report shows that the property taxes that fund CSD operations dropped from $7.2 million in 2008 to $4.9 million in 2011, a 33 percent drop in three years.
Mattock’s goals for her second term include more park building and facility improvements, but her emphasis will remain on the budget and planning processes that make the fun stuff possible, she said.
Her “big thing” is getting the board to agree on a strategic plan for the district that defines longer term goals for the district and its general manager. It would link directly to the capital reserve fund, and help protect district funds. The plan would be developed through a series of facilitated meetings, and include public participation.
Mattock also looks forward to completing the 501c3 process, which will create a non-profit arm of the CSD, and provide an alternate revenue source for projects.
“Everyone’s talking about volunteerism but there are some foundational things you have to do,” she said. “This board is actually doing them.”
With the 501c3 in place, local firms or even individuals can get a tax break for sponsoring a favorite project.
Mattock would like to see an inventory of pre-approved projects, amenities such as benches and walkways that enhance parks and work within existing district infrastructure, “shovel-ready projects that an Eagle Scout or church group might be able to tackle.”
She also plans to expand her involvement with the California Special Districts Association, which she called “a great advocate for special districts,” especially small ones that struggle with protocols, the Brown Act and the myriad of regulatory challenges that even the tiniest districts face.
Mattock currently serves as vice president of the regional chapter of CSDA, president-elect of the California Association of Park and Recreation Commissioners and board member and chair of the Early Care and Education Planning Council. She also sits on the county Tax Policy Oversight committee and the Institute for Local Government’s outreach committee.