Long Beach property owners could soon be voting on whether they support the establishment of a vector control benefit assessment district which would charge an annual fee for the city to prevent the proliferation of disease spreading insects and rodents.
Currently, the city is split among three vector control authorities with much of East Long Beach, Signal Hill and parts of North Long Beach serviced by the county, the city’s northwestern-most corner belonging to the Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District and the remainder being serviced by the city.
While the former are funded by annual assessments paid by property owners, the city-serviced portion of Long Beach is run with funds taken out of the Health and Human Services Department.
Representatives from the department revealed results of a survey it started circulating in January that showed modest support (53 percent) for an assessment district to be formed with the funds going toward bolstering the mosquito and pest abatement already provided by the city. Current funding comes out of the department’s budget that includes state realignment dollars.
“Because these [mosquito] seasons are extending and we’re seeing a much larger presence of mosquitos and the possibility of disease, we do not have the capacity within the realignment fund to be able to build our staff to address all these issues,” said Health and Human Services Director Kelly Colopy. “Over time, what you would find is a diminished capacity and having increased disease and mosquitos.”
The survey was based on two price points, $8.21 per year and $14.92 per year, that could be assessed to property owners in Long Beach. The city has opted to potentially go forward with the $8.21 rate with a May 7 cutoff date for the City Council to pass a resolution to direct the mailing of ballots to property owners in the impacted area.
It’s expected that if the assessment district is created it would raise about $700,000 annually in extra funding for the Health and Human Services Department to carry out vector control duties. It could also allow the city to employ seasonal vector control specialists year-round. Finding a funding source for vector control was a stated goal of the city’s last adopted budget.
Unlike a sales tax, only property owners would be able to vote on the establishment of the district, and the value assessed would fluctuate based on property size.
The vote, which would be conducted through the mail, would be weighted by property type with single-family residences making up the largest share of potential voting weight, followed by apartments and investment properties, business and industrial properties, large properties and agricultural.
Of the 20,000 surveys sent out to property owners, the idea of establishing a vector control district received the highest support from single family residences (65 percent) but apartment owners showed the second lowest support for establishing the assessment district with just 38.7 percent support.
For the assessment district to be established a simple majority would have to approve the fee but because the votes would be weighted, larger properties and owners of multiple properties would have more say in whether it passes or not.
If the City Council approves the ballots to be mailed out to residents the vote could take place as soon as May 17 according to a presentation during Tuesday night’s council meeting. The ballots could be then tabulated and certified with the first assessment to property owners being collected by December.