Residents concerned about a spike in their tax bills are being encouraged to write letters to those deciding the issue on May 26.
According to an e-mail from the Canyon Country Advisory Committee Members and Friends circulating on the internet, letters are the only avenue that might stop the hike in fees that the committee has dubbed “the largest single tax increase in the history of Santa Clarita”
The increase will pay for the construction and operation of two desalination plants required to protect endangered species, downstream agricultural interests and keep the salt from sewer water from polluting the Santa Clara River.
Dave Bruns, Assistant Department Head for Financial Planning for the Los Angeles County Sanitation District, explained that the original proposal from the state’s regulatory board would have cost twice as much.
The new proposal involves reverse osmosis and microfiltration to remove chlorides before the water is transported to the agricultural interests. It also provides for the disposal of the salt removed from the water.
“One of the problems when you remove the salt, it doesn’t just vanish,” he said. “One proposal is to inject the salt into depleted oil wells, which are sealed off by bedrock from the groundwater.”
Currently, residents of the Santa Clarita Valley pay $14.92 per month for a single family home; the proposed increases would raise those charges to $17.92 in 2009-10, $21.50 in 2010-00 and $25.75 in 2011-12.
Bruns said that the public hearing set for 3:30 p.m. May 26 at City Hall is an opportunity for people to ask questions and express their support or objection.
“People can come to the hearing and say ‘raise them, don’t raise them, go to something intermediate,” he said. “Nothing is a done deal.”
He cautioned that simply throwing out the rate increase without suggesting an alternative solution to the problem would be counterproductive and might end up costing taxpayers more in the long run.
“We have to comply with the regulation and we can’t without building the new facility,” he said. “If we’re in violation, the state law says it’s a minimum $3,000 fine for each day out of compliance. It adds up quickly.”
The Canyon Country group is telling property owners to send letters of objection even if they are not affected by the increase, such as those with septic systems. Bruns said that septic tank users are exempt and those property owners who can prove they use less than the average homeowner will be eligible for a discount.
The public hearing will be conducted by representatives of communities affected, including Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry, Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste and Supervisor Don Knabe, this year’s president of the County Board of Supervisors.
For more information on the county sanitation issues, visit their website at www.lacsd.org .