Claremont Insider: LLD Increase = City Windfall

Saturday, May 19, 2007

LLD Increase = City Windfall

The Claremont City Council next Tuesday, 5/22/2006, will review and accept the city consultant's annual report on the Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD).

The LLD, which was enacted in 1990, is an property assessment that is used to pay for maintaining city landscaping and street lighting. It currently stands at a base rate of $137.16, which is how much most single-family dwelling homeowners pay. The LLD is weighted so that larger properties such as apartment complexes and commercial properties pay more (a multiple of the basic unit rate).

The LLD is an assessment district, just like the 2006 proposed Parks and Pasture Assessment District, which in itself was fairly controversial and which drew over a 50-percent response in the mail-in ballots. The Parks and Pasture AD lost 54% to 44% despite the backing of the Claremont 400 - backing that included current councilpersons Linda Elderkin, Sam Pedroza, Ellen Taylor, and Mayor Peter Yao.

Each year, the LLD is reassessed by an engineer who issues a report that includes a recommendation on how the LLD should be reassessed in the coming fiscal year. The LLD is invariably increased by the local consumer price index, a measure of inflation.

The yearly LLD engineer's report will give a range of possible increases. Past councils have almost always voted for the maximum increase recommended by the engineer. Two years ago, the engineer recommended a maximum LLD increase of 4.02%, but the council voted for a smaller increase of 2.25%. Last year, the council again voted for a maximum increase of 4.67%. The vote was 3-2 (Yao, Baldonado and Taylor voting yes; McHenry and Calaycay voting no).

Interestingly, current Councilmember Sam Pedroza, as a member of the Community Services Commission, argued for recommending an even larger increase last year - 6.48%. The council, tempered by Councilmembers McHenry and Calaycay, didn't go for that one. But they're back for a second bite at the apple. This year, the CPI stands at 3.84%, but city staff is recommending increasing the LLD 5.63% to $144.88 per unit, a $7.28 increase.

Why a greater than CPI increase? They want to go back and take away that smaller than maximum increase from two years ago. To sum up:

Read for yourself. Here is the city staff LLD report for next Tuesday's council meeting. It includes the consultant's report. (Click on the PDF icon to pull up the entire report.)

It's not all bad news. There is a tax break hidden in there - for the City of Claremont!

As the staff report notes, the city is currently paying $728,696.00 from its General Fund into the LLD kitty on top of what is collected in assessments from property owners. If the council approves the 5.63% LLD increase staff recommends, the city will get to decrease its General Fund contribution to the LLD by 3.5% to $702,670.00.

They have earned it after all, and that windfall will trickle down - to staff benefits or council perks, no doubt!


If all of this sounds confusing as confusing as a game of Three-Card Monte, it probably is.

Claremont's assessment engineer, by the way, is a consultant who is paid approximately $25,000 to produce his report. The assessment engineer for the LLD is MuniFinancial Corp., the same consultant that created and ran the failed Parks and Pasture campaign. One of the objections to the assessment vote was that the consultant in charge creating the vote mechanism and counting the votes was the same company that would get the yearly contract to reassess the district.

MuniFinanical, is a subdivision of the Willdan Group. Like fellow consultant Bill Mathis, both are corporate supporters of the California City Management Foundation, the organization that former Claremont City Manger Glenn Southard helped found.

The wheels on the consultant bus go 'round and 'round.