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Other voices: Assessment more beneficial than tax hike

On behalf of the Peardale Chicago Park Fire District Board, I would like to respond to and clarify a number of concerns raised at the public meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 11, regarding the proposed special assessment.

Why a “special benefit assessment” instead of a special tax increase? First, an assessment only requires a 50-percent majority plus one vote to pass, a logical approach to meeting one’s goal of improving fire protection. Ballots are only mailed to property owners in the district because they are the only ones benefiting and being assessed. A special tax increase would require a two-thirds majority of all voters in the district to pass. There are approximately 2,603 registered voters in the district, many of whom are not property owners. There are only 1,625 improved parcels in the district, nearly a difference of 1,000 votes. A special tax could be enacted without regard for the property owners.

Similar “special benefit assessments” were recently conducted in Ophir Hill, Nevada County Consolidated and Penn Valley fire districts.



Regarding the requirement for a signed ballot, this is a legislative requirement for special assessments. Proposition 218, passed by the voters in 1996, was intended to close some loopholes in Prop. 13 to ensure tax increases were approved by a two-thirds majority with some exceptions, namely “special benefit assessments.” SB 919, the mechanism codifying Prop. 218, requires that the ballot be signed, and the Government Code Section 53753, Sect. C, also clearly requires that the ballot for “special benefit assessments” be signed.

“Special benefit assessments” have been recently conducted in the Ophir Hill Fire District, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District and Penn Valley Fire District, all of which required that their ballots be signed in accordance with legislative requirements.




Regarding the concern of an annual increase in the assessment, the district will only adjust the assessment when necessary and then only by the increase in the national Consumer Price Index as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average increase in that index over the last 10 years has been 2.45 percent. In no case may the district increase the assessment by more than 5 percent, irrespective of the increase in the CPI.

Regarding the concern that the district board may spend funds on something other than staffing, the brochure mailed in conjunction with the ballot focuses entirely on staffing and states very clearly that the goal and intent of the funding is to provide two personnel on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Regarding the tabulation of the ballots, MuniFinancial, an independent party, has been contracted to provide a required engineer’s report and conduct the balloting procedure. The tabulation of the ballots will be conducted at a public hearing scheduled for Oct. 10 and may be observed by the public.

If a property owner has torn or damaged his or her ballot, incorrectly marked it, or wishes to exchange the ballot for any reason, he or she may exchange the ballot for a new one until the closure of the public hearing on Oct. 10 prior to the tabulation of the ballots.

ooo

John Felde is a member of the board of directors of the Peardale Chicago Park Fire District.


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