City residents in the Alta Estates, Orchard Glen and Autumn Hills housing tracts could see a ballot in the mail asking them to vote on an increase in property taxes to help recoup yearly expenses for lighting and landscaping provided by the city.
This may only happen when a study is completed to see the proposed new fees each property owner would pay. City Council members unanimously approved conducting the studies at their June 3 meeting.
“The action tonight would be to authorize the studies, which would result in us returning with the results of the study, so you can see the amount of money specific to each property,” said Jay Schlosser, development services director for the City of Tehachapi.
City fees for new housing development require an agreement be attached to each property to help pay for parks, street easements, lighting, grass, trees or other landscape features within a neighborhood. But now the expenses are more than the limited reserved taxes people pay.
The landscaping and lighting fees that are now charged do not cover the expenses.
City employees and Alpha Landscape Maintenance provide landscaping services in housing tracts. Other expenses are also incurred.
The city general fund is subsidizing $127,051 each year for this work, City Manager Greg Garrett said.
“They (residents) have a choice — to increase their property tax so we can pay these bills or not,” Garrett said.
The City Council could decide to send ballots to affected property owners to vote on the increases. The new rate would be approved if fewer than 50 percent vote "no," according to City Council agenda documents.
If more than 50 percent say "no," the City Council could vote to stop providing these services, continue subsidizing out of the general fund or find other ways to cut expenses, Garrett said.
"Proposition 218 requires all taxes and most charges on properties be subject to voter approval," according to documents from the agenda.
Councilman Phil Smith said, "There might be another option. We might have to do more zeroscaping, reducing landscaping, or those type of options."
The estimated new taxes split up between each housing division are as follows: Alta Estates, $85,772; Orchard Glen, $27,154; and Autumn Hills, $14,125.
“These agreements create landscape lighting and landscape maintenance districts to ensure public green space is maintained and the cost of street lights in housing developments are covered through annual assessment in the property tax. These assessments are disclosed during the purchase of a home or business in one of these areas,” according to documents from the City Council agenda.