Citizen Alert: Stormwater Fees that could impact your property tax bill

Senate Bill 1298, called “Local Government: Fees and Charges,” is proposed legislation moving rapidly through the CA State Assembly and Senate in Sacramento. It aims to create a loophole in Prop 218 so that stormwater assessments can be added to property taxes without being placed on the election day ballot. It could open the door to dramatic property tax increases that avoid the standard 2/3 voter approval.  If you are concerned about losing your right to vote on new property tax assessments please read the details below and contact your state legislators and Gov. Brown to voice your opinion.  If it passes in the Assembly and Senate this month, it will be sent to the Governor in September for his signature or veto.

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In 2012, the LA Regional Water Board mandated groundbreaking stormwater requirements for all cities in the county. The mandate, called a MS4 Permit, requires extensive new infrastructure and is estimated to cost more than $20 Billion over the next 20 years to implement. While we all want to conserve water and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean, there is currently no budget to pay for the new systems. The City of Glendora has estimated costs at $233 million.

In order to create a revenue stream, Senator Robert Hertzberg of the San Fernando Valley wrote Senate Bill 1298 so that stormwater costs can be added to property tax bills. While it would create much needed funding, it is constitutionally questionable. It removes the 2/3 voting requirement for new taxes and allows stormwater assessments to avoid being placed on the election day ballot.

SB 1298 aims to weaken Prop 218, the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” which was passed by voters 20 years ago to ensure that new or increased taxes, fees and assessments would be approved by the people before being enacted. SB 1298 attempts to change the Public Utilities Code definition of “sewer service,” to include stormwater. It would allow local governments to pass the storm water management costs directly to residents via a “protest ballot” which is a non-standard vote held outside of normal election proceedings, and is historically known to disenfranchise voters.

In the City of Glendora, it is estimated that a stormwater property tax assessment could average $1200 per year for residential properties. It would also impact schools, hospitals, businesses and churches. For people who are on fixed income, the elderly, and those who are struggling to meet their mortgages each month, it could be particularly damaging.

Last year, polling was conducted to determine whether voters would approve a Constitutional Amendment to Prop 218, to allow stormwater costs to be added to the three utility assessments that are exempt from an election day vote: trash, sewage, and household water use. The polling results showed that citizens would not support creating an exemption for stormwater, and the measure would most likely fail at the ballot box. Residents specifically showed disapproval for it being passed “without voter approval.” Shortly after these polling results, Senator Hertzberg created SB 1298 to do exactly that… circumvent the need for voter approval by wordsmithing the language of Prop 218 to call stormwater “sewage.”

The bill is a “gut and amend” which means that the stormwater legislation was stuffed into the bill late in the process. Due to this, it will not be thoroughly vetted in committees. It is moving rapidly and appears that it will be passed by the Senate and Assembly before the end of this month. It would then proceed to the Governor’s desk where many local cities are advocating for a veto. Currently, cities are sending opposition letters to Sacramento on behalf of their citizens. Local journalists on both sides of the political spectrum have also published opposition articles. It is clearly a bi-partisan issue which crosses political boundaries.

If legislators want financial support from residents for stormwater managment, it should be obtained by following the standard practice of placing the measure on the election day ballot. Ultimately, it will also be necessary to find State and Federal funding for the implementation of the MS4 permit.

There are many questions about the legality of SB 1298, and if it is passed there are organizations considering court challenges on behalf of the taxpayers.  What is abundantly clear at the moment, is that attempting to force residents to pay for stormwater by thwarting the democratic process with not sit well with them.

Below is additional background information regarding SB 1298.

Click the links to read the attachments:

Glendora Opposition Letter

Details about the poll regarding Prop 218 Constitutional Amendment

Tribune Editorial

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Opposition Letter 

Sincerely,

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Judy Nelson
Councilwoman, City of Glendora

Boardmember:
San Gabriel Valley Council of Government Water Committee
San Gabriel Valley Council of Government Energy, Environment and
Natural Resources Committee
San Gabriel Valley Water Association
Rivers and Mountains Conservancy
National Forest Foundation Community Collaborative

Public comment period is open for the San Gabriel Mountains Monument Plan

The planning phase for the new management of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is underway. Once developed and approved, it will control how the 350,000 acre area is to be used.

During certain stages of planning, the Forest Service solicits comments from the public. The first official comment period is open now until July 27, 2015.

You may comment via the email link below or contact the Forest Service for more information. You may also request a hard copy of the “scoping letter” that explains the process by calling (626) 574-5278 and asking for Justin Seastrand, Forest Planner. 

Below is the email link for submitting comments:

https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/public/commentinput?project=46964

What topics or concerns would you like to see addressed?  Which recreation activities do you enjoy in the forest and don’t want to see limited? Are there areas that are currently closed that you would like to see reopened for recreation?

Every comment will be considered, and concerns that are most frequently mentioned will receive priority. I urge each of you to take the time to let the USFS know of your desires regarding the usage of the natural resources in our backyard. Every opinion is important.

One of my major concerns with this designation is that the San Gabriel River, our primary water source where Glendora collects up to 85% of it’s water, is included within the boundaries. The president’s proclamation, states that there are threatened fish and rare plants living in the river, and there is ongoing debate about whether those species will eventually be given priority over the collection of drinking water. One of my comments will stress the utmost importance of protecting this water source for drinking water.

An additional concern of mine is that there has been serious conversation about creating transportation systems to bring groups of visitors from across the southland to various entrances in the Monument such as at Glendora Mountain Road, Angeles Crest Highway and Highway 39.  One of my comments will stress the importance of working together with foothill cities, including Glendora, to prepare for the impact that an influx of visitors could have— where will they park, how do we provide trail and road maintenance, additional security, and how do we protect the privacy and tranquility of residents who live near the trailheads?

It will be very important for Glendora and other foothill cities to work closely with the USFS on this part of the management planning process, so we urge residents to submit their comments during the June 12th—July 27th public comment window.

Thank you,

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A report on Glendora’s recent water conservation efforts

Water conservation levels among California residential users reached an all-time high for the month of May, with Californians using 29% less water than in the same-month period in 2013.

The City of Glendora posted a whopping 48% overall water savings for that month, one of the highest in the entire state. However, Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers remains cautious, stating “I don’t want to pop any champagne yet. This is one month. The next nine months will be the real test.”

In order to continue these efforts, Glendora is hosting two free water workshops:

1. Community Water Workshop: Thurs. July 9th, 2015, 7:00pm, Bidwell Forum, 140 S. Glendora Ave. Glendora

City staff will provide information on the recently adopted Emergency Drought Response Plan, Water Use Efficiency Audits, available rebates, and answer questions including those regarding Residential Gallons Per Capita Per Day (R-GPCD).

2. Turf Removal Workshop: Sat. July 11th, 2015, 10:00am – 12:00pm, Glendora City Council Chambers, 116 E. Foothill Blvd.

Learn how to reduce your water usage by transforming your yard into a drought tolerant landscape. Find out how you can also receive rebates in the process.

In addition to reducing water usage, the City is also focused on how we can still maintain attractive landscaping throughout our city and in our homes. Below is a link to recommendations from the California Landscape Contractors Association about how to help your landscape survive the drought:

http://www.clca.org/clca/about/consumer/drought/