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Wed, Apr

Another Attack on Our Wallets: the County’s Parks Parcel Tax

LA WATCHDOG

LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will discuss a $200 to $300 million parcel tax to fund the repair, operation, and creation of parks throughout the County.

  If approved by two-thirds of the voters in November, this money will essentially replace the two parcel taxes (one of which has already expired in 2015) that provided the County with approximately $80 million a year.  The second parcel tax will expire in June of 2019.  

This new parcel tax will be not be “flat tax” where a levy of $34 on each of the County’s 2.4 million taxable parcels would replace the 2015 revenue stream of $80 million. 

Rather, the County is proposing a tax based on the square footage of the structural improvements on a property, similar to the County’s Trauma Tax that was approved by 73% of the voters in November of 2002.  In this case, the County is considering a levy of between 3 and 5 cents per square foot. Based on about 6.4 billion square feet, this tax, if approved, will produce annual revenue next year in the range of $200 to $300 million, a hefty threefold increase from the current level of $80 million.  

This rate of 3 to 5 cents per square foot may also be increased by an amount equal to the rise in the Consumer Price Index, which, along with the county’s organic growth, is estimated to produce revenue of between $15 and $25 billion over the next 35 years, the life of the new tax. 

According to the recently completed Needs Assessment Report, the County estimated that it required $21.5 billion, of which over two-thirds will be used to pay for the deferred maintenance of our neglected parks and facilities. 

But before placing this measure on the ballot, we need a better understanding of how the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District, the recipient of these new revenues, will work with the Department of Parks and Recreation, a $190 million a year operation with 1,600 employees.  

And we also need a better understanding of why our more than 3,000 parks need over $14 billion in deferred maintenance. 

We will need to strengthen the oversight of the Regional Park and Open Space District and the Department of Parks and Recreation so that the Citizens Oversight Advisory Board is independent of the Board of Supervisors and has the resources to conduct an objective, critical, and constructive review and analysis of the operations, finances, and management of these two entities. 

We will also need some time to review and analyze the mind numbing details of the 7,300 word ballot measure, especially how the money is allocated and how Nonprofit Organizations and Public Agencies fit into the equation. 

The County will put on a full court press to pass this increased tax, including the 19 points mentioned in the ballot measure that tug at our heart strings.  

But the odds of this ballot measure receiving two-thirds of the votes needed for approval are not high, especially given that Proposition P, the Safe Neighborhood Parks Tax, was not approved by the voters in November of 2014, receiving only 63% of the vote.  This $23 parcel tax on 2.4 million properties would have raised only $54 million, a far cry from the proposed $200 to $300 million levy. 

The odds of this ballot measure passing are diminished by the fact that voters realize that this new tax is just the tip of the iceberg as the impact of the taxes being proposed or considered by the County and the City will slam Angelenos for more than $1.8 billion.  This is the equivalent to a 37% increase in our property taxes or a three cent bump in our sales tax to over 12%.  

These City and County taxes include those associated with our Department of Water and Power, Metro, Stormwater, Streets and Sidewalks, the Homeless Initiatives, and Parks.  They do not include any new State taxes, including the extension of Governor Brown’s “temporary” Proposition 30 tax hikes or the cost of the $9 billion school construction bond.  Nor does it include any pension related taxes to fund our seriously underfunded pension plans at both the City and County level.  

Before proceeding with any ballot measure to increase our taxes, the City and the County need to come clean and detail their proposed plans to raise our taxes (rather than picking us off one by one) and how they intend to make sure our tax dollars are being used efficiently.  

If not, do not bother asking us to approve any new taxes.  It will be a waste of money. 

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The following is the ballot language 

Los Angeles County Safe Neighborhood Parks, Healthy Communities, and Local Water Resources Measure 

To renew expiring, dedicated, local funding for neighborhood/city parks, recreational areas, rivers/beaches; protect local water resources; including rivers/creeks; reduce gang activity; ensure safe play areas; shall an annual ___¢ tax per square foot of improvements be levied on developed property in Los Angeles County, generating $__________ annually, for 35 years; exempting low‐ income seniors; requiring citizen oversight, independent audits, and local control?

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(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  [email protected].)

-cw

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