By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- During a public hearing on June 2, the Oxnard City Council approved the engineer's report and collecting assessments for the fiscal year 2020-2021.
The action is applicable within the city's landscape maintenance districts.
The action is according to the city's 1972 Landscape and Lighting Act.
Project Manager Adam Smith said the council adopted two resolutions that were a prelude to adopting the engineers' report.
Upon approval, the assessment data gets forwarded to the auditor's controllers' office and must be done by July 6.
"Improvements within each district not only benefit the residents within each district, but those who have a property in close proximity to the district, or those who are driving through the district or visit a park or go on a walk," he said. "Those visitors get a benefit from the LMD, landscape maintenance district, and that's quantified by using the general benefit."
The city's general fund provides the general benefit, and there are utility caps that go along with the action.
"A number of the LMDs when they were created limited how much each LMD can raise their utility rate each year," he said. "Even if the utility charges or use increased, a contribution from the general fund is needed to fund the difference between the utility cap and any use increase."
For the fiscal year 2020-2021, the general benefit contribution is $93,000, and the estimated utility overage is $158,000. That creates a $258,000 general fund contribution.
"It includes a subsidy for Cameron Ranch, which is currently underfunded," he said.
City Attorney Stephen Fischer said all of the landscape districts are lumped together for the public hearing.
Councilman Bert Perello lives in one of the districts and said he might have to recuse himself if a discussion comes up about 13, and he won't be able to vote."
"If there is any discussion on LMD 13 if you can have that now," Fischer said. "Once that is completed, you can vote on that one without Council Member Perello participating. After that vote, you can continue with the rest of the items."
LMD 13 passed 6-0, with Perello abstaining.
Perello asked about Cameron Ranch and wanted more information about why it is underfunded.
"I'm sure that I'm not the only member of the council that gets questions about why certain areas of the city look better than others," he said. "The explanation falls on unwilling ears when you tell them there are landscape maintenance district fees, community-facility-district-facility fees, and there are extra fees the residents pay."
He asked staff to show the map again and pointed out there is a tremendous amount of the city that has no extra fees on their property tax.
"These areas do," he said. "That is possibly why some areas look better than others. They're paying a lot more. That is something the residents in Oxnard don't understand, and they need to understand."
If a neighborhood wants more improvements, they can vote on the item as a neighborhood and increase their fees.
"Or, they can reduce their service level and reduce their fees," he said.
Smith added that Cameron Ranch is underfunded for the upcoming year as maintenance totals are higher than the assessment.
Consultant Pablo Perez said the council approved a contract that provides for outreach and public engagement process.
"We're going to meet with all the communities in Oxnard, so we can have assessment districts that can fund the improvements," he said. "We're going to work with the city, staff, and residents to find solutions which may include increasing the assessments or modify the improvements. Whatever solutions we can come up with."
Perello said the Oxnard Shores District recently voted down an owner's assessment district, and he's not sure what that will do to the city.
"There are properties owned by the city, and the group will not be assisting with those fees," he said. "Knowing that area, this will be an item that will come to the council."
Mayor Tim Flynn asked if the city planned on ending the Landscape Maintenance District and creating a Community Facilities District.
"Are there some other entities that would allow those assessments to go up," he asked.
Ultimately, Scott said that is what the city wants to do, but there are costs associated with the change.
Flynn is worried about the timeframe.
"In my experience, despite whatever efforts we've made to inform the residents who live in these landscape maintenance districts, in certain instances, their Landscape Maintenance District is upside down," he said. "The city's general fund had to bail it out with just over $2 million. There were those with surpluses nailing out those with deficits. I would like to see clarity on the roadmap, moving forward."
Smith said the city would present a conversion roadmap in the future.
The item passed unanimously.