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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : City Council Backs Tax District for County Libraries : Assessments: The proposal to maintain facilities would cost Santa Clarita homeowners about $28.50 a year.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Swayed by dozens of supporters, officials have agreed to make this city part of a special tax district projected to raise $30 million for Los Angeles County libraries.

City Council members voted 5 to 0 late Tuesday night to join the Communities Facilities District, which would annually charge property owners slightly more than the price of a hardback book. Homeowners would pay $28.50 per parcel and condominium owners $21.38 per unit.

“This is supposed to be a premier city,” Councilwoman Jo Anne Darcy said. “You can’t have a premier city without a premier library.”

Dozens of residents turned out at the council meeting Tuesday night, many waiting more than four hours to speak in favor of the library system.

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the Community Facilities District on Tuesday, and members wanted to see if cities supported the proposal.

It is based on a Mello-Roos district, a funding mechanism most often used to pay for infrastructure improvements by charging area property owners an added fee on their property tax bills.

The Los Angeles County library system serves 3.3 million people in 52 cities and 28 unincorporated communities and has 87 branches. Branches are operating in Santa Clarita’s Canyon Country and Newhall communities. A third branch in Valencia is undergoing repairs for damage sustained in the Northridge earthquake.

The approval was a rare move for Santa Clarita council members, who are usually reluctant to back new fees.

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City staff members even recommended that the city not participate in the district, at least for its first year. They warned that the district may be challenged in court because of its non-traditional use of the Mello-Roos mechanism. They also voiced concerns about the fee’s establishment with minimal public input.

“One of the founding principles this city was founded on was public participation and local rule,” said Rick Putnam, city director of parks, recreation and community services.

Despite the unanimous vote Tuesday, not everyone on the council supported the assessment district.

“This is one of the most onerous things I have seen,” said Councilman H. Clyde Smyth, calling the proposal “ill-conceived” and “not honest.”

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Voters in the Santa Clarita Valley’s unincorporated areas, such as Castaic, Val Verde and Stevenson Ranch, would face the fee regardless of the city’s stance. Smyth said he wanted to ensure that the fee benefits those voters, who are served by the city’s libraries.

“The thing that bothers me the most is that the vote we cast doesn’t just affect the city,” Smyth said. “I will support it because it is so unfair to the people who have nothing to say about it.”

The City Council’s decision includes a provision for Santa Clarita officials to annually review their participation in the district.


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