L.A. County's Prop. P would levy tax for parks, conservation work

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 31 Oktober 2014 | 12.56

Along with casting their votes for a new supervisor, sheriff and assessor Nov. 4, Los Angeles County voters will decide whether to tax themselves to pay for park and conservation projects across the region.

The proposal, Proposition P, would levy a $23-per-parcel property tax on county residents, generating an estimated $54 million a year for the next 30 years. The measure is billed as a replacement for Proposition A, a 1992 park measure that expires next June. The old measure provided about $52 million a year. Another park funding measure that passed in 1996 brings in about $28 million annually and will expire in 2019.

Those measures have helped pay for some large projects, including restoration of the Griffith Park Observatory, installation of a new shell at the Hollywood Bowl and an Olympic-sized pool in East Los Angeles, and replacement of trees downed by a 2011 windstorm in the San Gabriel Valley.

Proponents, including county supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina, and a number of cities, environmental and business groups, say the measure is needed to continue to pay for important projects and to leverage state and federal funds.

"Some incredible and extremely critical and needed park, open space and clean water projects have been done with Prop. A," said Bruce Saito, executive director emeritus of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.

The organization employs at-risk youth on park and conservation projects and got about 5% of its money this year from Proposition A. "I think to lose that funding source would be catastrophic," Saito said.

The previous measures were passed with a defined list of projects, unlike the current proposed measure, which has a funding plan broken down by broad categories of spending, but no specific project list.

Under the new proposal, which requires a two-thirds majority of voters to pass, 20% of the money would go to cities and unincorporated areas based on the number of parcels in each jurisdiction. The county's five supervisors would divvy up another 30% for regional projects, 15% for county parks, beaches and clean water projects and 10% set aside for projects in park-poor communities. Another 15% would go to maintain past projects, and the remainder would be divided between competitive grants that nonprofits and other organizations could apply for and administration.

Opponents — including Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — have raised concerns about the lack of a defined project list as well as about a change in the funding formula that would mean an increased levy for many homeowners. The average cost for a single-family home under the 1992 measure was $13 per year and another $7 from the 1996 measure.

The old tax level was calculated in part based on how much benefit a property would receive from the projects. But because of changes in state law that would make it more cumbersome to use that formula for the more than 2 million parcels throughout the county, the new tax would instead be a flat $23 per-parcel tax.

Pasadena City Councilman John J. Kennedy, who joined Antonovich and others in a statement opposing the measure, said it was premature to ask voters to approve another tax without an action plan for spending the about $150 million left over from the previous park taxes.

"Until there's a clear plan for that, you don't need to ask the taxpayers for more money," he said.

County parks department director Russ Guiney said $20 million of the leftover money is already set aside for specific projects. The remainder will be allocated to capital projects requested by cities and other entities over about the next three years, but will not be available for maintenance of existing projects. About $8 million a year in Proposition A money now goes to maintenance.

"We've had a good record the last 22 years of spending this money," Guiney said. "We spend it where the taxpayers want it to go."

No organized group has formed to oppose the measure. A committee formed to support the measure has raised about $50,000, including $20,000 from the California Conservation Campaign and $10,000 each from the League of Conservation Voters, Los Angeles Parks Foundation and landscape architect Glen Dake.


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