During its August 17 meeting, the City Council unanimously agreed to postpone asking property owners to vote on an increased tax assessment until early 2017. The additional revenue would pay for the rising costs of maintaining landscaping, lighting and trees.
The primary reason was to avoid voters confusing the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD) mail ballot with that for the Nov. 8 General Election.
Public Works Director Paul Toor told the City Council at the meeting that the mailer to ask property owners to increase the LLMD rates could be sent as early as mid-October. These have remained the same since 1997, he said.
Mayor pro tem Michael Cacciotti then asked if the vote could be postponed.
“Considering everything going on with elections—statewide, federal, local,” Cacciotti said, postponing it will make sure it won’t be “mixed up in the fray of all these other resolutions and measures on the [General Election] ballot.”
Councilmember Richard Schneider said the concern was legitimate. “Several members of the community have asked us to delay this past the election in November,” he said. This was, he said, “because of possible confusion with the other issues, like the school board election.”
The Nov. 8 South Pasadena General Election ballot contains 17 statewide measures and contests with 23 candidates competing for 10 offices, according to Voter’s Edge California. This is a joint project of Maplight and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund. A South Pasadena school bond measure will also be included on the ballot.
Materials for the Nov. 8 General Election will be sent to all registered voters between now and November. If the LLMD voting proceeds as originally planned, these ballots would be mailed to all property owners during this time.
Three school-affiliated residents requested via email that the City Council postpone the LLMD vote. Copies of the emails were included in the August 17 meeting materials posted on the city’s website.
Jean Zenas, co-chair of the Yes on South Pasadena Schools Committee, the group favoring passage of the South Pasadena school bond measure, had sent one of them. “I am deeply concerned about the timing of the election you are considering,” she wrote. She said it would take place at the same time that people would be returning vote-by-mail ballots for the General Election. She said there is a “very lengthy General Election ballot, including our local school bond measure to support much-needed So Pas school improvements.”
Absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 General Municipal Election will be accepted starting Oct. 10, according to the website of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Statistics on the website reveal that almost 36% of voters voted by mail in the June Presidential Primary election.
“The potential confusion of multiple mail-in ballots for voters is of great concern,” Zenas wrote in her email, “both for the local school bond measure and the [LLMD] assessment.” She also pointed out that the delay of the vote by a few months will not impact when the city receives the tax revenue.
Similar emails were received by school bond supporters Megan Dostal and Julian Petrillo.
Public Works Director Toor said that the LLMD vote could be postponed until March 2017 without jeopardizing funding. The vote had been scheduled for Fall 2016, he said, because other projects will soon be taken up by the City Council. Studies need to be undertaken to explore funding for water, sewer and other much-needed capital improvements, he said.
Staff will return to the City Council in time to meet the March 2017 deadline for the LLMD. This will permit the increase, if approved by 50% plus 1 of those returning ballots, to be included on the 2017-18 property tax statements.
The funds would produce revenue to help cover costs of services that Toor said are now being subsidized by the General Fund. The LLMD was instituted to fund the maintenance of traffic signals, street lights, median landscaping and the urban forest.