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Topics / RECREATION : Proposed Tax to Save Parks Draws Fire

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Homeowners in unincorporated areas are upset over a proposed special assessment district that could cost them up to $24 a year to save numerous county parks and swimming pools from closure.

Because of budget cuts, the county is considering closing 37 parks and eight swimming pools, said Curt Robertson, an administrator with the County Parks and Recreation Department. Operating costs for those parks and pools adds up to $8.1 million, he said.

A special assessment district--in which single-family homeowners would be charged $24 a year and multifamily housing owners would be charged $18 a unit--would raise $9 million for the county parks system. Commercial property owners also would be taxed according to the size and type of building and the kinds of improvements made on the property, Robertson said.

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On July 14, the county Board of Supervisors approved a $14.5-billion budget that spared the Parks and Recreation Department from $8.1 million in proposed cuts.

The budget, however, is based in part on $500 million in federal Medi-Cal money. It won’t be known whether the county will receive that money for at least a month, according to county spokeswoman Judy Hammond.

Greg Norden, chairman of the Altadena Town Council, said the council voted last month to send a letter to the Parks and Recreation Department opposing such a tax and saying that if the county wants to go forward, it should put the matter to a public vote.

“Implied in that also is the strong feeling that residents of unincorporated areas should not be called upon to pay for park services for the entire county,” Norden said.

But Robertson countered that residents of unincorporated areas use city parks supported by the taxes of city residents.

Several of the county parks threatened with closure are in the San Gabriel Valley. The targeted parks include Charter Oak Park in Covina, Walnut Creek Park in San Dimas, Pamela Park in Duarte and Michillinda Park in Pasadena.

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