Dead plants needing replacement, and irrigation repairs around areas of Banning that affect more than 1,000 residential units costs the city more than $150,000 a year to take care of.
The city’s budget could only allocate a little more than $139,000 towards those expenses, and costs will continue to rise every year for areas along medians and around sidewalks that fall under the city’s purview.
When it comes to things such as replacing groundcover, “Currently we don’t have funding to pay for that,” Public Works Director Art Vela told Banning’s city council at its March 10 meeting.
There are 1,015 “assessment units” in the city’s Land Management District (LMD) No. 1, which is broken down into 10 tracts spread out over four zones, with some properties not contiguous until recently — a problem for property owners who are at one end of a zone that end up paying for maintenance of tracts in another part of the zone that may be on the other side of the city.
The city has been in the process of reshaping those zone areas and expanding a few, from four to 10, in order to ameliorate inconsistencies.
The city narrowly agreed to initiate a ballot measure last week that will be mailed to voters within the LMD in May.
In zones where it could be passed, Proposition 218 would tack on an “assessment” on those properties, so that property owners in those areas can help the city pay towards the costs of the landscape maintenance borne by the city.
Vela insists on referring to the excises as assessments, not fees, and only residents in the LMD — not all Banning residents — would be charged those assessments annually.
In January Riverside-based consultant Webb Municipal Finance LLC prepared an analysis and budget for the existing tracts within the LMD that outlined several goals: ensure existing zones and assessment amounts for each tract are appropriate; ensure a developed budget with adequate funding, and providing estimates that are projected each year for the next 20 to 30 years related to city staff costs, water, electric, operation and maintenance, plant replacements, irrigation repairs and capital improvement costs, and coming up with a plan that allows zones within the LMD to run without deficits; recommending assessment amounts, new zones and the restructuring of existing ones; and ensuring that the method currently being used of apportionment and allocation of the net costs provide a reasonable special benefit nexus to the properties within affected zones.
Options from that report that were offered to property owners were: escalated costs with a reserve collection and maintenance program collection of 29 cents per square foot; escalated costs with a reserve collection and an escalated maintenance program collection of 44 cents per square foot; and escalated costs with a reserve and maintenance program collection of 29 cents per square foot, as well as a Consumer Price Index collection over 30 years of $13 per square foot.
Only 12 vote cards were returned by property owners, with seven voting for the first option. (One voted for the second option, and four came back citing “none of the above.”)
The report noted that four of the tracts should pay less than their current assessment units, based on its calculations.
In Zone 2, for instance, both tracts in that zone would see assessments drop to $97.85 annually from $113.31.
For everyone else, rates will rise significantly, if Proposition 218 passes.
In Zone 1, rate assessments would rise from $108.90 to $207.39.
In Zone 8, assessments would rise from $216.69 to $375.93.
And, costs would generally rise 2 or 3 percent each year to keep up with the CPI, though would not exceed 5 percent annually.
“Costs will continue to rise,” Vela warned. “Without a CPI cost increase related to inflation, a decade from now we could be back to where we are now, where we’re not collecting enough revenue to keep up with public service.”
Property owners, not renters, would receive the annual assessments.
According to Vela, if revenues can’t be collected, then every year when contractors are hired to maintain those areas in the LMD, “We’ll have to continue to reduce the scope of what they will do in order to adhere to the confines of the budget.”
Vela explained to the Record Gazette that zones that pass Proposition 218 will have individual budgets the city can work with, and the city can adequately prioritize maintaining those zones, whereas zones that do not pass the measure will have the scope of maintenance reduced as to not exceed remaining city budget allocations.
Councilman David Happe motioned to adopt the Proposition 218 ballots and approve the rate assessments, seconded by Art Welch. Mayor Daniela Andrade joined in supporting them; Mayor Pro Tem Colleen Wallace voted against the measure, as did Councilman Kyle Pingree, recording his first “No” vote.
Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at email@example.com , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.