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SCVNews.com | Property Owners Say ‘Yes’ to Landscape Rate Change | 09-22-2011
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Property owners in Santa Clarita have voted to approve changes to their landscape maintenance district rates and boundaries, according to a city staff report published Thursday.

Weighted by the proportional share of money they’d pay, 56 percent of the ballots (representing $1,145,974 in assessments) were marked “yes,” and 44 percent ($901,745) were marked “no.”

Ballots were mailed July 27 to 16,879 property owners and had a 36 percent return rate.

Even if the state constitution didn’t require the ballots to be weighted by valuation, the proposal still would have passed – barely. Of the 5,696 ballots returned, 50.9 percent (2,899) said “yes” and 49.1 percent (2,797) said “no.”

Landscape maintenance district fees appear on property tax bills. They pay for the upkeep of landscape and hardscape in the public right-of-way such as landscaped medians, street trees and paseos.

Under the new formula, rates for a majority of current payers go down because under Proposition 218, rates must be assessed in accordance with the amount of benefit each property receives. That’s a change from the “one property, one vote” method now in place.

Today, for instance, a house near the Valencia mall pays the same rate as the mall. Under the new system, the mall would pay more and the homeowner would pay less.

One of the most dramatic decreases is in Valencia Hills, where homeowners now pay $378.81 per year to maintain trees. Their rate would drop to $34.80.

About 76 percent of all parcels are in the city’s landscape maintenance district today. The new plan boosts the percentage to 87, including 2,000 properties in and around Old Town Newhall that would be included for the first time – and which would pay an assessment of up to $71.57  per year for the first time.

However, the east and west side of Sierra Highway at Friendly Valley Parkway will not be levied until the 2013-14 fiscal year and only then with specific City Council approval. Median improvements planned for the section of Sierra Highway between Via Princessa and Friendly Valley Parkway won’t be completed before the August 2012 cutoff.

“The window for levying special assessments closes in early August,” city Treasurer Darren Hernandez said. “Therefore, the earliest (the fees) could be implemented is for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.”

Changes for everybody else will take start taking effect next July.

“All of the other areas involved already have their improvements in place,” Hernandez said. “All special assessments require annual approval by the City Council following a public hearing. At any year, the council could decide to not levy a special assessment and provide an alternative means for funding the maintenance of the improvements, if such is available.”

The City Council is scheduled to certify the ballot results Tuesday and consider adopting the technical report that would put the changes into effect.

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5 Comments

  1. SALLY says:

    Who in their right mind would approve to raise their taxes Why dosen’t the city of Santa Clarity pay for this why do we have to foot the bill Who ever voted yes should have their heads examined

    • Anonymous says:

      Hopefully we made it clear in the story that rates would go *down* for 90 percent of homeowners? If that’s unclear, please let us know and we’ll try to make it more clear.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your story indeed makes it clear that most were voting for a decrease. This election has several different dimensions all mixed into one. If a zone such as Northbridge Point is looked at by itself it makes sense that the commercial property should pay more than a single family residence. It further makes sense that the commercial property has more voting weight as they will be paying more. What does not make sense is that all of the SFR’s who are likely to vote ‘yes’ due to their insignificant decrease are also effectively voting a brand new tax on the residences in Newhall and Friendly Valley because of their relatively high ballot weight. As soon as I can get my hands on the parcel by parcel voting record I want to do a complete analysis of the results. If those in Newhall and Friendly Valley voted a majority ‘yes’ it won’t really matter how the election was staged. If they voted a majority ‘no’ then essentially they were imposed a new tax by people living in other parts of the city. And that would be wrong.

        • Anonymous says:

          It will be interesting to see whether the notion of separate LMDs for different parts of town gains any traction at the next council meeting.

  2. John of Newhall says:

    Right. On the other side of Lyons, the north side, my neighbor got to vote themselves a ten dollar year decease, going down to about $210. (Due to CPI increase on assessments this will disappear within 2 years.) My neighbors voted also, probably not knowing it, for the people on the south side of Lyons, like me, to pay a new tax of $60 and to bring our parcel into the “District”. There were five different ballot information letters, seven different ballots, and literally too many to count increase/decrease amounts on the ballots, due to varying percentages of “EBU”’s. But there was only one YES or NO. Not every parcel in SCV voted in this “election”, just those drawn in to make the YES vote likely, given the weighting of the ballots. The City claims that this is done according to state law, but there is a lot going on with the one “vote.” But think, is it really fair to ask some people to vote YES to reduce their own tax, and to vote to bring in new parcels of others that must pay a new tax? Is this really the only way the City could have done this? See http://santaclaritaassessmentballot.blogspot.com/ .

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