Open Space Subvention Payments- Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Open Space Subvention Act?
The Open Space Subvention Act (OSSA) was enacted on January 1, 1972, to provide for the partial replacement of local property tax revenue foregone as a result of participation in the California Land Conservation (Williamson) Act and other enforceable open space restriction programs (Government Code §16140 et seq.). Participating local governments receive annual payment on the basis of the number of acres, quality (soil type and agricultural productivity), and, for Farmland Security Zone contracts, location (proximity to a city) of land enrolled under eligible enforceable open space restrictions.

What is the Funding Source for OSSA Payments?

The State’s General Fund.

How Much Money Does the State Typically Distribute Annually for OSSA Payments?

The historic average for certified entitlements was $23.3 million per year between the Fiscal Years (FY) of 1972 and 2008.  Revenue shortfalls during the recession resulted in the reduction of payments beginning in FY 2009, when payments were reduced to a total of $1,000 statewide.  There have been no subvention payments since Fiscal Year 2010.

How Does the Application and Payment Process Work?

Subvention payments are based on an OSSA application that is filled out by a local government and submitted to the Department.  The Department reviews the applications for accuracy and then certifies the entitlement amounts to the State Controller’s Office for payment.

When is the Application Published? When is it Due to the Department?
The Department typically publishes the application in August. It is due back to the Department on or before October 31st of that year.  Despite elimination of subventions in the State Budget, the application continues to be posted as a survey so that the level of participation in the Program, and loss of funds to local jurisdictions, can be documented.

When are OSSA Payments Made?

This question is applicable when funds are made availble through the State Budget process for subventions.

Applications are processed in the order that they are received.  The Department certifies subvention amounts in an entitlement report, which is then sent to the Controller’s Office for payment.  In the past, subvention payments went out to the counties on a “rolling” basis – once a county’s entitlement claim was certified by the Department, the Controller’s Office would release that county’s funds.  However, pursuant to §16144, the Controller now makes all subvention payments on or before June 30, but no earlier than April 20, of each year.  

What Information is Reported to the Department in the Application?
The application captures ten types of enrollment changes and four categories of eligibility. The enrollment changes are captured at the parcel-level, while the eligibility categories are aggregated at the county- or city-wide level. Cancellation fee payment information is also reported, as well as the subvention payment amount to which the local government is entitled.   Mapped information corresponding to the OSSA survey is also required.  For mapping specifications, please refer to this document