SELMA – With the cost of labor and water increasing, the city of Selma is projecting it will need to increase rates in all its Landscaping and Lighting Maintenance Districts.
A mailer will be sent to all residents to notify them of a public hearing regarding the increase at a May 7 City Council meeting.
Public Works Director Romeo Shiplee attributed the rate increases primarily to the increasing cost of keeping the city landscapes green.
“Of the $18,000 increase, $15,000 is water,” Shiplee said. His comments came during the Feb. 20 City Council meeting. “There are some labor costs, but it’s just the cost of doing business. What we want to do now is put out the Prop. 218 letter and recoup our charges. All the charges are what we actually spent.”
Proposition 218 requires that taxes and most charges on property owners are subject to voter approval.
The fee increases vary from $2.16 to $32.08 per lot annually. The biggest increase will result in additional $2.68 per month for residents in the Royal Country Estates zone. The smallest increase will result in an additional 18 cents per month for residents in the Vineyard Estates zone.
Interim City Manager Henry Perea said it’s not a matter of making a profit but covering the costs incurred to maintain the areas throughout the city.
Councilmember Scott Robertson questioned why the districts were incurring increases again and suggested they be staved off.
“Rosewood doesn’t even have a light on their sign there. Are they going to get a light? That’s something the residents are bringing up,” Robertson said.
Shiplee said since the costs are based on work that’s already been completed in maintaining the public areas in those neighborhoods, not increasing the fees would result in an $18,000 debt.
City Attorney Neal Costanzo said the increase is also a result of rate increases imposed by California Water Service. When a water recharge fee is added to that, it winds up costing the city more to use water to keep green spaces green.
Perea said while public works could look at reducing the number of watering days in the future to reduce the fees residents must pay, they should keep city beautification in mind.
“If we go to less watering in our outside areas and everything starts dying, that creates a different issue for us. It’s a balance.”
Councilwoman Yvette Montijo said public input will be taken at the May 7 meeting. She cautioned against the idea of increasing rates sporadically as that would result in even larger increases all at once.
"I think it’s a lot easier to take a rate increase in small increments rather than not doing anything for three or four years and then having a large one. That’s what happened with the [Selma Kingsburg Fowler Sanitation District]. If we’d continued after the recession doing smaller rate increases, rather than all of a sudden needing a huge rate increase, it would have been easier to accept.”
Council approved the rate increase 4-1 with Robertson as the lone vote against the action.
Residents can look for letters detailing their neighborhood’s landscape and lighting maintenance district fee increases. Any public protests will be heard at the May 7 Council meeting.
In other matters:
- Council approved having Perea enter into financing contracts to rebuild Fire Station No. 2. The renovation and construction is estimated to cost $4.9 million. The city can procure tax-exempt financing for 100 percent of the project by issuing tax-exempt bonds. Repayment is estimated to be between $312,000-318,000 annually. The bond would be repaid over 30 years from Measure S funds.
- Council also approved hiring Gateway Engineering for preliminary engineering on its Active Transportation Plan. The project will improve safety for students heading to Jackson, Eric White, Garfield and Roosevelt elementaries and Selma High.
- Council approved first readings for three different developments. One is Rosewood Estates II which is comprised of a 66-unit development to be built on 20 acres east of Highland Avenue and north of Nebraska Avenue. A second is for a development of 33 residences to be built on 20 acres on the north side of Rose Avenue and east of Country Club Lane. A third is for the Country View Estates III comprised of 23 residences to be built on 10 acres on the northeast corner of Rorden Avenue and Country View Street. The properties were approved for construction in 2006 and council’s action extends the property owners’ ability to build for another two years. California Legislature allowed the extensions during the earlier economic recession in the state.