County Supervisors Place Parks Parcel Tax on November Ballot

New tax measure to fight homelessness also under review.

By City News Service

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to put a measure on the November ballot that would levy a one-and-a-half cent per square foot parcel tax on properties countywide to fund parks development and maintenance.

They also approved a motion to draft three potential tax measures for the November ballot to increase funding to address homelessness.

The board directed Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai to present proposals at next Tuesday’s meeting for a parcel tax, sales tax increase or marijuana tax.

The votes come on the heels of a Los Angeles City Council decision last week to ask voters to authorize $1.2 billion in bonds to address the city’s homelessness problem, rejecting a competing proposal for a city parcel tax measure.

If approved by voters, the parcel tax to fund park services is estimated to raise roughly $95 million annually. The annual tax bill for a 1,500-square-foot house would be $22.50.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who recommended pushing the measure forward, said it was a small price to pay.

“We’re not asking for a lot,” Solis said. “We’re being very cautious about the taxpayers.”

The board’s vote was 3-1. Supervisor Don Knabe voted against the measure because a sunset clause that would end the tax in 35 years was eliminated.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich was absent for the vote.

The Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks, Open Space, Beaches, Rivers and Water Conservation Measure would replace funding under Proposition A, first passed more than 20 years ago. The last of that Proposition A funding is set to expire in 2019.

L.A. County voters will decide in November on whether to raise taxes to fund parks. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

L.A. County voters will decide in November on whether to raise taxes to fund parks. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Solis pointed out that the new measure seeks to raise only about $10 million more than the original proposition.

Voters are expected to consider several revenue-generating measures in November, including the Measure R half-cent sales tax for transportation and a statewide measure to renew income tax increases to fund education, as well as the parcel tax to fight homelessness being pushed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who said Tuesday it’s “time for the board to identify an ongoing funding stream” to put before voters in November.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored Solis’ motion, took a different perspective.

“This is like walking into a Starbucks … and getting anything you want for free, forever,” Kuehl said. “Because the parks are free, the beaches are free.”

In 2014, the board tried to replace Proposition A funding with Measure P, which fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage, with 62.8 percent in favor.

At the time, Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Second District, had pressed for more dollars to be allocated to underserved areas.

The new measure has a greater needs-based component, though 50 percent of dollars raised will go back to the communities where they were raised.

The parks assessment found that about 51 percent of county residents do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park. The incidence of health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease is higher in park-poor communities, said Cynthia Harding, interim director of the county’s public health department.

The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations opposed the measure.

Chamber CEO Gary Toebben told the board that transportation and homelessness are the organization’s local priorities and that it wasn’t “strategic” to add another measure to a ballot expected to include 17 state propositions. Toebben also objected to the fact that commercial property owners would pay nearly two-thirds of the total tax raised.

Priorities for spending the money — should the measure pass — have been set based on meetings with residents from 188 study areas aimed at identifying each community’s top 10 parks projects.

Thirty-five percent of funds will be tagged to pay for those projects.

Another 15 percent will be used to fund parks maintenance in the communities where taxes were levied. Thirteen percent will go to high-needs communities.

Another 13 percent will be used for environmentally-oriented projects, including beach and waterway clean-up; with 13 percent more for regional trail and accessibility projects that connect urban areas to nature.

The balance will go to related job training for youth and veterans and to administrative costs.

Even if the measure passes, the county will only have a fraction of the money needed to complete the $8.8 billion in priority projects identified by the area study groups and another $12 billion in deferred maintenance.

A two-thirds majority of November voters is required for passage.

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July 7, 2016  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


One Response to “County Supervisors Place Parks Parcel Tax on November Ballot”

  1. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas | July 2016 on July 8th, 2016 10:29 am

    […] New tax measure to fight homelessness also under review (EGP) […]

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