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UPDATE: Supervisors vote to extend protest period over Clean Water, Clean Beaches fee

Local elected officials stand unified against fee

Posted: January 15, 2013 4:49 p.m.
Updated: January 15, 2013 5:18 p.m.

Members of the audience listen to testimony during the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' public hearing on the Clean Water, Clean Beaches storm water cleanup fee on Tuesday. (Luke Money/The Signal)

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LOS ANGELES — After a public hearing that spanned more than four hours Tuesday, members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to continue a protest period for the proposed Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure.

The 60-day extension was proposed by Supervisor Don Knabe as a way to address some of the most common issues raised during the public hearing at the county’s downtown Hall of Administration.

Some of those issues included possible fee exemptions for schools or nonprofit agencies; the potential of a “sunset clause” that would cause the fee to expire after a certain amount of time; and the creation of a specific list of projects the fee would fund.

The Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure would impose an annual levy on all county property owners based on the size and pollution potential of their properties.

Those fees would average $54 a year for most county residential properties, $250 a year for a typical convenience store or fast-food restaurant and $11,000 a year for a typical home improvement or “big box” retailer, according to county Public Works numbers.

Some local property owners, however, said they received notices about the fees that show numbers considerably higher than the county’s estimations.

Knabe’s motion directs the county to examine whether the proposed fee can be made a general ballot issue as opposed to a vote-by-mail election.

The major distinction between the two is that the fee would require a two-thirds vote majority to pass in a general ballot election.

The mail-in ballots would require a simple majority to pass, but they would go only to property owners, rather than the general populace.

Knabe’s motion also directs county staff members to examine how email could be used to lodge protests against the fee.

Protest forms had to be physically mailed or hand-delivered ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

The board voted 3-2 to approve Knabe’s motion to extend the protest period, with Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Gloria Molina opposed.

Santa Clarita Valley elected officials presented a united front of opposition during the hearing.

“The proposed countywide fee represents millions of dollars directly out of the pockets of Santa Clarita taxpayers for pollution reduction measures they are already paying for,” Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar told the Board of Supervisors, noting the city already has a storm-water cleanup fee.

Councilman TimBen Boydston characterized the measure as another unnecessary tax.

“You have managed to do something people thought was impossible: God sends us rain and you figure out how to tax it,” Boydston said to a round of applause.

One of the larger issues brought up at the hearing was whether schools would be exempt from the fee.

Marc Winger, the superintendent of the Newhall School District, addressed the board on behalf of his and other districts in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Winger estimated the proposed fee would cost valley schools a combined $600,000 a year.

“In effect, these fees constitute another (budget) cut for us,” Winger said.







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