Proposed Increase in Landscape Maintenance District Fees
In l969 residents of Scripps Ranch, concerned that amenities such as landscaping installed by developers would not be maintained by the city, decided to form the first assessment district in San Diego. This generated $27,000 per year and covered about 17 acres of open space. The assessment per family for this modest effort was small. A companion action in the community plan stated that 25% of all the acreage would be preserved as “natural open space” and not build on it.
Over the years, the Scripps Ranch community elected to expand the role and performance of the landscape maintenance district (LMD), now referred to as a maintenance assessment district (MAD). The expansion included new projects and services. Household assessments remained fairly stable while total funding increased as more homes were built.
These locally derived and locally spent funds have resulted in valuable amenities which the City Park and Recreation Department could not provide, such as the permanent stage in Hoyt Park, swings in Lakeview Park, and trails throughout the open space. Increased assessments also were used to improve the heavily used playing fields in Jerabek and Cypress Canyon Parks. The end result has been a greatly expanded capability and function of the Scripps Ranch LMD (SRLMD).
When Miramar Ranch North (MRN) was formed, the city elected to form a separate MRNLMD with separate rules, a separate assessment, and a separate area where the funds could be spent. Two key differences compared to the SRLMD is that the MRNLMD pays for improvements of many street medians and is prohibited from paying for improvements to City parkland, e.g. Spring Canyon Park. Over the past 7 years, the MRNLMD assessment has needed to be increased; however, the rise barely has kept up with inflation and increased cost of maintaining open space and medians.
Over the years, increased costs also have occurred for the SRLMD. As a result, the City is now in the process of planning to increase the assessment for both LMDs in order to maintain their respective level of service.
Jan Kane (new chairman of the MRN LMD) and Bob Dingeman chairman of SRLMD for 23 years) met with Terri Williams, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department MAD program. She was asked to prepare a report of proposed city actions concerning the LMDs, and to meet with the MRNPC, the SRPG, and the SRCA to review the status of actions. The emphasis was on reinforcing the concept that Scripps Ranch is one community, but recognizing that development and construction in the two planning areas (SR and MRN) had different landscape plans and requires different costs to maintain these.
The city is reviewing its contributions to open space maintenance; maintenance of center islands, medians, and slopes; city parks; and libraries. A reserve of 10% has been established as a desired goal for all LMDs. This goal can be achieved immediately by cutting back services and planned work. Another option is to accumulate it slowly over several years and include it in the budget for each fiscal year. The city plans to ask each LMD to propose how they will accumulate this reserve. It has been our position that any effort to suddenly accumulate a reserve of 10% would push the assessment higher and that’s hard to justify as there would be no increase in services.
Both the SRLMD and MRNLMD will be required to conduct a ballot measure, as the amount of increase will exceed the annual Consumer Price Index increase authorized a couple of years ago by Proposition 218. Based on the above, we are actively discussing possible scenarios with the emphasis on several points:
- All of the collected assessment dollars must be properly and efficiently spent and the LMD members receive “their money’s worth” for the extra taxation.
- Action will be taken to gradually accumulate a 10% reserve.
- The proposed and actual maintenance of city-owned open space, medians, etc., must be reexamined.
- A ballot measure proposed to increase the assessment of any LMD must clearly show the present level of services and scope of accomplishments and the additional advantages to the community.
- The cost of a ballot measure will be borne by the LMD that is affected.
- The scope and level of service in Miramar Ranch North is now estimated to be greatly in excess of what was originally projected. An independent engineering evaluation is needed to confirm the required scope of service and any necessary changes. This additional expense should be placed in the MRNLMD budget.
- Both LMDs perform the invaluable service to the community of maintaining appearances and property values, as well as preserving a quality of life in Scripps Ranch second to none.
There are many new features included in the projected budgets for the coming year for both LMDs. The current and projected ballot assessments are:
- Scripps Ranch LMD: current, $84; proposed, $116;
- Miramar Ranch North LMD: current, $127; proposed, $230.
Viable and effective solutions to the problem of maintaining our level of service and expectations are being sought. We understand that any increase in fees is unwelcome and appreciate your comments. You may address questions and suggestions to either Bob Dingeman ([email protected]), or Jan Kane ([email protected]).
Thanks for your help. It is to benefit our home, Scripps Ranch.