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Property Owners In Over Half Of LB Block City Hall Effort To Make Them Pay "Benefit Assessment" For Mosquito Abatement/Vector Control Currently Provided By LB Health Dept

Measure fails despite City Hall-paid consultant strategy/messaging


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(July 18, 2019, 5:15 p.m.) -- Tax fatigue? City Hall credibility gap? Despite hiring a City Hall-paid consultant (contract up to $200,000, not immediately clear how much spent) and applying the consultant's recommended messaging and strategy -- and despite a lack of organized opposition -- property owners in a little over half of Long Beach (area in red on map below) have blocked a City Hall effort to require them to pay a "benefit assessment" sum of about $8.21 a year (estimated starting sum for most single family home owners) to fund mosquito abatement/vector control services currently provided by the LB Health Dept.


City of LB PPT, March 19, 2019

Of 14,244 valid Prop 218 mail-in ballots cast (including those cast by the City as an owner of some properties in the area), a majority on an unweighted basis supported the assessment (54,48%) BUT the number of ballots supporting the assessment on a weighted basis -- which is the applicable legally required standard under state law -- was only 45.76.

The bottom line: City Hall can't impose the "benefit assessment," which means LB's Health Dept. will continue to provide mosquito abatement services in the map-displayed red area using its current budgeted sources instead of shifting those costs to property owners.

Property owners in the green areas aren't affected; they alrady pay a property tax assessment to receive services from the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District; NW LB property owners pay a sum for services to a Compton Creek district.

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When the agenda item was called, Mayor Robert Garcia muttered a few words and City Councilmembers said nothing as the City Clerk read the results, followed by a swift motion to "receive and file."

City officialdom had been planning the Prop 218 mail-in ballot election for months. On Oct. 2, 2018, the City Council voted 9-0 to authorize city management to execute a no-bid contract (reciting that the consultant "is the only firm in California that has established a post-Proposition 218 assessment for vector control services, and has developed a proprietary survey for conducting feasibility studies of new benefit assessments") "to study the feasibility of establishing a benefit assessment for vector control services in an amount not to exceed $200,000 for a period of one (1) year, with the option to renew for two (2) additional one-year periods, at the discretion of the City Manager " It's not immediately clear how much of that sum has been or will be expended. The Oct. 2, 2018 agendizing memo indicated the sum was budgeted in the Health Fund of the LB Health and Human Services Department.

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On March 19, 2019, city management brought the consultant's findings to the Council and described them in mainly upbeat terms. The consultant predicted overall weighted support of 53.7% at a proposed rate of $8.21 per single family home, with tiered rates for other types of property. City staff said a "survey" was mailed to roughly 20,000 property owners in the map red area (out of 79,000 in the area) using randomized, stratified samples and received 2,974 respondents for a 15% return rate for a margin of error of 1.75%.

[City staff agendizing memo text]...The survey was mailed out on January 18, 2019 and provide information to property owners on the vector control program and assessed their relative support for new or enhanced programs to control mosquitoes and other vectors in Long Beach.

,,,The overall community priorities garnering a favorable response were:

1. Control the emergence of invasive species, such as Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever Mosquito), that can carry life-threatening diseases.

2. Prevent future outbreaks of Zika, Dengue, West Nile virus, and other diseases.

3. Reduce mosquito populations using environmentally-sound methods.

4. None of the proceeds from this assessment could be taken by the State or County and can only be used directly for mosquito and vector control services.

5. Continue the use of mosquito traps to measure mosquito populations, and expand focused, surveillance-based control programs.

6. Control and treat "green pools," which are a major source of mosquitoes.

7. Improve response times to control mosquito populations using environmentally-sound treatments to address Zika, Dengue, West Nile virus, and other life-threatening diseases.

...The City's consultant, SCI, recommends the City conduct a mailed ballot majority protest proceeding to establish dedicated funding

...Summary of Findings

  • Property owners within the City Vector Control Program area support a measure to continue both providing control of mosquitoes and other pests, and monitoring and responding to public health issues.

  • Priorities are:

    • 1. Controlling the emergence of invasive species that can carry life threatening diseases
    • 2. Preventing future outbreaks of Zika, Dengue, West Nile virus and other diseases
    • 3. Reducing mosquito populations using environmentally-sound methods
    • 4. Fiscal responsibility proceeds used for mosquito and vector control services (not to be taken by the State or County)

    Recommendations

    The City should conduct a mailed ballot proceeding to establish dedicated funding to provide comprehensive mosquito and vector control services at the rate of $8.21 per Single Family Residence per year

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    But more than a few taxpayers on social networks responded negatively to the proposed assessment, some saying LB City Hall had taxed them enough (including the June 2016 Measure A/sales tax increase June 2018 Measure M (utility revenue transfer/rate increases.)

    Defeat of the City Hall-sought "benefit assessment" comes as the City Council just voted without dissent (July 16) to conduct a special (additional taxpayer cost) March 2020 citywide election for a ballot measure that seeks to make permanent (unless repealed by voters or lowered by the City Council) the June 2016 Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax increase that the City told the public would be temporary.

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    After LB voters approved Measure A in June 2016 and City Hall began receiving roughly $60 million more in revenue each year (roughly $10 million more annually than it initially expected), Mayor Garcia recommended and the current Council has approved budgets that have funded a number of infrastructure items/street/sidewalk repair and restored Fire Engine 8 and Rescue 12 and 9 officers at LB's police training academy. However at the same time, the Mayor/Council approve budgets still left LB taxpayers without 186 citywide deployable budgeted police officers (including LBPD's field anti-gang unit) and without three operating fire engines (Engines 17, 101 and 18) that LB taxpayers had before the tax.

    Meanwhile, the Council used other General Fund sums (freed up by passage of Measure A) to grant pay raises to LB's politically active police and firefighter unions (who were the two largest sources of campaign funds for the Measure A campaign) and also provided raises for senior city management (some now in the $200,000 and $300,000 "club" (pay and benefits included.)


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