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Deadline Tuesday to Return Clean Water Tax Hike Ballot

County property owners not returning ballots count as supporting the proposed tax to cover costs for improving water quality and a public hearing on it unfolds at 11 a.m. Knabe opposes.

Editor's Note: If you wish to vote against the fee, the deadline to submit your ballot is 9:30 a.m., Jan. 15. Follow this link to directions on the mailer. If you wish to vote for the fee, no action is required.

The deadline is Tuesday morning to return your ballot if you oppose a proposed L.A. County property tax meant to pay for clean water programs, and an 11 a.m. public hearing on it is expected to draw heat.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Long Beach, Cerritos, Artesia and other neighboring cities, strongly opposes the parcel tax, and has urged people to learn about the proposed fee to pay for clean water programs.

Knabe's weekly Monday newsletter urged taxpayers to attend the hearing, criticized the way residents have been presented with the proposal:

The public hearing on the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure is set for tomorrow morning at 11:00am in the Board of Supervisors hearing room at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. T

The Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure is the largest protest hearing process that Los Angeles County has ever undertaken.  It should have been as convenient, transparent and open as possible, but unfortunately it did not live up to that. Many property owners and businesses are concerned that they are already required to do the things the parcel fee is meant to achieve - such as capturing storm water and installing permeable pavement - so this will be a double tax for them.  Others want to see a specific project list to know where the money will be going. In addition, we are asking schools, churches and non-profits, organizations that are struggling in this tough economy, to divert funds form their programs to pay this fee.

 If you have not yet submitted an official protest form, download a new copy and fill in your address and Assessor ID Number. You can then either email your form as an attachment to me at AskDon@lacbos.org or fax it to my office at 213-626-6941 and I will personally bring it down to the public hearing and submit it on your behalf.

  Click here for the tax proposal ballot.

The Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure tells property owners how much each would pay annually and a form for objecting to the idea.

A typical single-family homeowner would pay about $54 on average and condominium owners $20 or less, according to Phil Doudar, project manager for the initiative. He said about 90 percent of parcel owners would likely pay less than $100, though large commercial property owners could pay thousands of dollars.

If approved, property owners would be charged an annual fee to cover costs associated with improving water quality and reducing pollution from urban runoff.

L.A. Department of Public Works Director Gail Farber warned earlier this year that county waterways are choked with trash, infection-causing bacteria, toxic chemicals, lead, copper and other metals, oil and grease.

As proposed, the measure would raise about $276 million annually to be split between Los Angeles County's Flood Control District, nine watershed areas set up to manage cleanup projects and the rest of the cities that make up the county.

The Flood Control District spent an estimated $340 million to control pollutants in fiscal year 2010-11, according to Farber, who has estimated the cost of complying with existing water-quality regulations to be in the billions of dollars.

But Supervisors Knabe and Mike Antonovich objected to what they called a tax on residents, saying funding should come from the federal or state government.

Antonovich and Knabe voted against the proposal in July, arguing that it should be put to voters in a future election rather than to property owners via a mail-in ballot.

"It really is disingenuous,'' Knabe said. "Clearly the intent of  this piece of mail is to look like junk mail.''

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who backs the measure -- the result of years of discussions between municipalities and environmentalists -- disagreed, saying it looks much like rate increase notices from local utilities.

The notice is just the first step in the approval process.

The public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15 during the board's regular weekly meeting at 9:30 a.m.

If a majority of property owners protest the fee in writing before the end of that meeting, the fee will not be imposed.

If a majority do not object, a ballot would be mailed to property owners. And if a majority of ballots returned are in favor of the measure, the fee would be charged.

More information is available at www.lacountycleanwater.org.

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