LA County Moves Toward All-Mail Ballot on Water Measure
The LA County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 this week to move forward with a plan for a countywide mail-in ballot on a Water Quality Funding Initiative that would assess a new, annual parcel-related fee on properties based on zoning, land use, size and how much runoff is produced.
If approved by voters, the tax would apply to all LA County property owners – from homeowners and commercial properties to school districts and government facilities. It has been preliminarily estimated the average fee would be about $54.
The funds would help LA County meet federal- and state-mandated water-quality requirements. Under the federal Clean Water Act, the EPA and the Regional Water Quality Control Board have ordered cities/counties to remove pollution from runoff before it fouls local lakes and beaches. Penalties are imposed for non-compliance.
There are many administrative and other steps – it would be LA County’s first countywide mail-in voting effort - that remain in this process, including exactly when balloting will occur (the goal is mailing ballots in March 2013, but timing is tight) as well as a series of public outreach efforts. And there were several questions and concerns cited in today’s Supervisors’ meeting. See more information below.
Highlights from the Supervisors’ Meeting July 3:
·Supporting: Molina, Ridley-Thomas, Yaroslavsky
·Opposing: Antonovich, Knabe
·Amendments to the proposal included a revised public-hearing schedule and DPW direction to work with school districts to help minimize impact (An LAUSD representative testified that Dept of Public Works has been supportive/cooperative, but preliminary cost estimated at $4.8M for a district already in fiscal crisis with 3,500 parcels affected in LA County)
Supporting Views: Generally included the years-long development of the proposal, a “fair,” “doable” approach provided by law (mail-in voting) critically needed so LA County does not have penalties or new regulations imposed upon it by federal and state agencies; County action needed as water pollutants in areas exceed standards and pose health concerns; creation of estimated 3,600 jobs through private-sector contracting for cleanup issues; off-election cycle allows voters to focus on this item; many cities and Councils of Governments supportive as it helps their compliance efforts, etc.
Opposing Views: Generally included need for cost-effective analysis, growing number of fees/taxes/increases on consumers, “sneak attack” on voters in an off-election year with an “untested” voting process, an “open checkbook” as it has no “sunset” on the fee, need for accommodations for property owners who have onsite treatment processes, high (10%) administrative fees, a mail-in balloting effort in Contra Costa for a clean-water measure was recently defeated, need for federal & state aid to meet federal- & state-mandated requirements, etc.
Background on the Issue:
In 2008, the LA County Flood Control District began pursuing the establishment of a new funding source that would finance projects and activities designed to improve water quality (management of stormwater and urban runoff, reducing pollution and contamination, reducing flooding, protecting habitat, etc).
In 2010, the Governor approved Assembly Bill (AB) 2554 (Brownley), which amended the Los Angeles County Flood Control Act, authorizing the District to impose a parcel fee, subject to a public vote, to improve water quality and reduce stormwater and urban runoff pollution to meet state and federal requirements.
Over the past four years, the District has engaged in numerous discussions with cities, Councils of Governments, the environmental community, and other stakeholders to develop a program structure for the proposed fee.
Background on the Proposal:
·As written, the ordinance gives 40 percent of revenue to cities and unincorporated communities; 10 percent to the county Flood Control District; 50 percent to regional "watershed area groups" consisting of cities, environmental groups and other stakeholders.
·A 13-member Oversight Board will be established to conduct public hearings and make findings and recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on matters related to WAGs’ WQIPs and to approve municipal projects exceeding $2 million. The Oversight Board would include: one member from the environmental community, one member from the District, two at-large members from the general public, and nine members representing each of the nine watershed areas. Oversight Board members would be required to have demonstrated expertise in water quality and be qualified in a related field. Members would serve for renewable two-year terms Initiative
·Read a presentation on the measure here http://dpw.lacounty.gov/lacfcd/wqfi/