Tax levy concern not whether to raise it, but by how much
The main concern raised by Colusa residents to the City Council about a potential increase in the tax levy to the Pools, Parks and Trees Improvement District was what the amount the increase would be, said Councilwoman Marilyn Acree and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Cynthia White.
"There was some concern that was raised, mostly around the dollar amount," Acree said of the meeting held last week to gain input on the potential fee increase.
The assessment is an annual $36 per single family home, totaling $78,000, which contributes to the Pool, Parks and Trees fund established in 1996. A preliminary engineer's report estimated the cost of operations to be $205,000 annually. For the past few years, the city's General Fund has been used to fill the gap in funding.
The engineer's report noted that for the city to cover the operational expenses, the fee would need to be increased to $94.60, but the Parks and Recreation Commission recommendation was to double the tax levy to $72.
White said the commission thought it "was not a prudent move" to go higher, and since they are city parks, the city should take some responsibility.
Generally, the 15 or so people who attended the information-gathering meeting were supportive, she said.
The fee has not been raised since 1996, and "it's really important that people understand what is at stake here," White said.
She said the trees are an important park of the city's character, and she is hoping the public will approach this in a positive way.
"Someone at some point in the past considered it an asset to the community, and it truly is," White said.
She said the general fee for just a basic pruning job for the city runs between $35,000 and $40,000 a year.
"There is only $78,000 for the entire fund. We've lost some major trees in town, and there's no money to replace them," White said.
"Can you imagine for the houses that don't have trees in front? A tree can grow and mature with your family, save you money on A.C. and make your house more attractive, which will raise its value," she said.
A lack of funds has also contributed to a lack of maintenance work on the city pool, including dealing with leaks.
"The pool closed on Sunday, and it's down almost three feet, and we didn't drain it. We've got to do something about that," White said.
Because of Proposition 218, in order to raise the levy, the city must gain voter approval. Under the 1996 law, the city must mail ballots to all property owners in the district and hold a public hearing.
More than 50 percent of the letters sent out have to be returned in opposition for the measure to fail.
Acree and Councilwoman Donna Critchfield are overseeing an ad hoc committee to continue to reach out to the public and "gain an understanding about what they think about it."