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With just a drip of funding for stormwater capture, LA County weighs property tax

May 31, 2017

By Susan Abram, Los Angeles Daily News

{In this Jan. 5, 2016 staff file photo, kids take advantage of a break in the rain to bike along the Bridgeport Bike path in Valencia. Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG/File}

Looking to tap property owners, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved moving forward with a plan to consider a parcel tax to help fund an ambitious stormwater capturing system to bolster local drinking water supplies.

An early analysis of how to develop infrastructure that best captures stormwater found that while the county is capable of building a viable system, there is little to no funding for it.

The county and its 85 cities are required to develop programs to build stormwater capture and clean-up projects as part of Federal Clean Water Act compliance. If the projects are not built, the state can assess penalties, county officials warned.

“Unfortunately, existing funds cannot meet all our needs,” according to the assessment. “Notably, very little funding is currently available to support the innovative, multi-benefit stormwater capture projects already identified in the assessment.”

The assessment, compiled by the Department of Public Works, was requested nine months ago by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis as California entered its fifth year of drought. Kuehl said 107 billion gallons of water brought on by the recent storms went uncaptured this season. That’s enough water for 2.5 million people for one year, or one quarter of the county’s population, Kuehl added.

The board voted unanimously to allow the Department of Public Works to continue looking at several funding options and to reach out to all cities in the county for input on how best to develop a capturing system.

“Water is life,” Kuehl said. “It touches all aspects of our lives and we can’t live without it. We need to make sure our region is water resilient both for the people and environment. I see it as a legacy issue for this board. We have a better opportunity to create a better water future for LA and to do it in a thoughtful way.”

Funding such infrastructure would cost the county $90 million next year, Kuehl said, which would come from the general fund.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said while she agreed with the spirit of the motion and the need to capture stormwater, she was concerned with the cost to taxpayers.

“We don’t want our taxpayers to pay the $10,000 penalty by not meeting the mandate before us,” Barger said. But some cities already assess fees and taxes on residents for stormwater capturing programs, Barger added. She hoped an upcoming fund would consider all options, including state and federal dollars.

While many environmental and some business groups were supportive of a possible parcel tax, others cautioned the board not to overtax residents.

Marsha McLean, a councilwoman for the city of Santa Clarita told the board that residents in her district already pay taxes and fees for such programs.

“Our residents are paying quite a bit and we do not want our residents to be double taxed for fees they are already paying to implement their programs,” she said. “Give cities credit for programs they are already implementing.”

The board instructed the Department of Public Works to return at a later date with a detailed plan.

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