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.