Fees hiked in lighting, landscape districts

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJune 8, 2013 

About half of the city's 18 lighting and landscaping districts will get a maximum increase in fees for a second year.

City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved those increases, which are 10 percent in seven districts and 5 percent in one.

Depending on the district, landowners will pay an additional $5.70 to $28.12 per parcel per year in those areas. That's a median increase of $15.

"With the increases, all of these are coming to where the assessments and costs balance out," said Public Works Director Mark Fachin.

The eight districts are functioning on a deficit. The lowest is about $13,000, while the highest is more than $280,000.

Increases can only be made in capped increments, so some of the districts will take a decade or more to be sustainable. Comparable rate increases were voted in about a year ago.

Services in the districts have been reduced, some down to half, Fachin said.

"We are not putting these up to full service yet, because we're just not at the point where we can do that," Fachin said.

Landscaping and lighting districts cover the maintenance of storm drains, parks, walls, sidewalks and street signs, as well as righting vandalism.

About 75 percent of the 7,735 residents in Los Banos pay a fee that goes to landscaping and lighting. The other 25 percent are in older neighborhoods that have never been incorporated into a district.

The first district was formed in 1988 and the last in 2009. Fachin said most were formed between 1998 and 2006. Assessment District 11, also called Meadowlands, is operating with the largest deficit ($280,000) but will see the smallest increase at 5 percent.

Fachin said the district, developed in 1999 and 2000, was negotiated with an increase ceiling of 5 percent.

Councilman Tom Faria said the levels negotiated with developers were done without foresight, a problem he said the city must avoid in future projects.

"We are having to compensate for what I consider mistakes made when these developments were first established," Faria said.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

enterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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