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,

signature

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

Community Conversation

On Thursday evening, Jan. 14th, a gathering of 40-50 people met at the Village Eatery to discuss matters related to Glendora’s governance. This was Glendora’s 2nd Community Conversation; the first was in October and led by Council Member Gary Boyer with Council Member Nelson also participating.

Council Members Judy Nelson and Mendell Thompson led this recent meeting, beginning with a brief overview of the organizational makeup of our city (graphic shown below) to emphasize the importance of citizen input in government decision-making. California’s Brown Act was also briefly covered in order to explain why a maximum of only two Council Members are able to attend these meetings.

Attendees were then invited to raise any questions, concerns or comments they had regarding City governance. To read the topics that were discussed, as well as some follow up information I’ve gathered, please read more below.

YESGov! (1)

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Water restrictions in Glendora have been amended

Glendora’s results are in for the first five months of Governor Brown’s Statewide Water Conservation mandates. Glendora residents, businesses, schools and the City have responded and, as you can see from the data shown below, we are successfully meeting our mandated goal of reducing water usage citywide by 36%. We are required to continue at that level through February, 2016, but we are clearly on the right track. Thanks to each of you for your efforts to conserve water.

At our Sept. 8th, City Council meeting, the Council approved amending the current watering restrictions to add flexibility. Previous rules limited watering of ornamental landscape to no more than two-days a week at 10 minutes per station/zone. The new amendment permits more days and time in your watering schedule.

Read more to learn about the details…

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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/

Mandated water conservation

Dear Friends,

If you haven’t already heard, the State Water Resources Control Board of California has imposed new mandatory water restrictions. Glendora households must limit water usage to 125 gallons per person per day.

What does this mandate mean for residents? That depends on your water usage. Beginning with the basics, here’s how to read the details of your water bill and determine what your daily water consumption is.

How to calculate your Residential Gallons Per Capita Per Day (R-GPDC) usage:

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Emergency Drought Regulations

California is in the midst of a severe drought and the State Water Resources Control Board has recently issued Emergency Drought Regulations: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2014/pr071514.pdf

The City of Glendora is committed to reducing it’s overall water usage and is working with residents and businesses to assist them with conservation measures. The City’s Water Conservation Team offer’s free home consultations to advise residents in ways they can conserve water including rebates for turf removal. To schedule a personal visit please call: (626) 852-4838.

For more information about the City’s rebate program please visit:
http://www.ci.glendora.ca.us/departments-services/public-works/water/water-conservation/rebate-program

Additional rebates are also available through the Metropolitan Water District at:
http://www.socalwatersmart.com/index.php/home/?p=res

In lieu of lawns: “Xeriscaping”

Due to the drought, the City of Glendora is currently partnering with the Metropolitan Water District to offer property owners rebates for turf removal and installation of drought tolerant plants.

We encourage residents to scale back water usage throughout their homes and yards through conservation measures.  While it may seem that we should let our yards go brown, water conservation need not diminish a city’s aesthetic appearance. Now is a good time to consider Xeriscaping, which can reduce water usage as much as 60% and adds value to the property.

xeriscaping-1

What is Xeriscaping?

Xeriscaping is creatively using low water landscaping to conserve water. “Xeriscaping (often incorrectly called zero-scaping or xeroscaping) is landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.[1] It is promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, and is gaining acceptance in other areas as access to water becomes more limited. Xeriscaping may be an alternative to various types of traditional gardening.“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeriscaping

PTG-Xeriscaping-1The term Xeriscape is derived from a combination of the words “xeri” and “scape”. The work “xeri” comes fro the Greek work “xeros” which means dry. “Scape” means scene. Even though this translates into “dry scene” it does not fully define the possibilities of Xeriscaping. There are many aspects to this type of gardening, but at its essence it involves the use of plant materials that are appropriate for the region and water availability.

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However, Xeriscape is not necessarily barren, desert, arid, or anything else that you might associate with dry climates. It is possible to have a lush display of plants that are compatible with their environment and are part of a well planned Xeriscape. When water restrictions are implemented by a municipality, xeriscape plants will tend to survive and thrive, while more ornamental plants or lawns may be unable to adapt.

xeriscaping

For more information on Xeriscaping please visit:
http://dpw.lacounty.gov/wwd/web/Conservation/XeriscapeEducation.aspx

To schedule a free consultation from a member of Glendora’s Water Conservation Team and learn more about rebates please call:

(626) 852-4838.