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The Landscape & Lighting benefit assessment Cosumnes CSD relies on to maintain the 10 parks, trails and street landscaping in this part of Elk Grove – known as “Benefit Zone 3” – is insufficient to cover increasing costs for water, services and asset replacement. This budget shortfall has been closed with the use of reserve funds since 2009. Unfortunately, reserve funds are beginning to dry up and may soon be depleted. As a result, Cosumnes CSD was forced to reduce staffing hours and contractor services effective July 1, 2018. These measures saved approximately $129,000. The balance of the FY 2018-19 deficit, $79,362, will be covered with the use of reserve funds.
Residents in the Elk Grove West / Vineyard Park area can expect the following reduced services through, at a minimum, the current budget year, which ends June 30, 2019:
Moreover, CSD will not have funds to replace damaged equipment, such as basketball hoops and play structures. Additional service-level cutbacks may be necessary if assessments are not increased.
The following parks in Benefit Zone 3 are impacted by the budget shortfall and service level reductions:
Although funds are available for the construction of two new parks, Cosumnes CSD cannot move forward until L&L benefit assessments are increased to provide an adequate source of funding for ongoing maintenance and operations.
Landscape and Lighting (L&L) benefit assessments paid by property owners are the predominant source of funding to maintain parks, including asset replacement, irrigation, tree and shrub pruning and sport court resurfacing. These assessments are collected in 13 “benefit zones” throughout the District. There are also six "overlay" assessment districts, wherein smaller segments of property owners within one of the 13 benefit zones have voted to pay an additional assessment to fund maintenance at park facilities within their immediate neighborhood.
Each benefit zone has a unique assessment based on the special benefit provided by its landscape features and maintenance services. The annual assessment in Benefit Zone 3 for FY 2018-19 is $132.25 per Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU).
Under California law, assessments may not be increased by an amount greater than the annual Consumer Price Index adjustment without the approval of a weighted majority vote of property owners in that benefit zone. This process is conducted by mail, and each property owner’s vote is weighted based on the total amount of the assessment on that owner’s property. Without the approval of property owners, existing service level reductions will continue and development of new parks will be indefinitely postponed in an effort to maintain a balanced budget.
Assessments are used to fund activities within each benefit zone, such as the salaries of Park Operations staff, services such as landscape maintenance, restroom cleaning and tree service, and a small portion of administrative overhead. In benefit zones that are adequately funding, projects such as replanting, sport court resurfacing and furniture replacement are also funded. Well-funded zones also set funds aside for future asset replacement such as playgrounds and shade structures.
The funding challenges in Benefit Zone 3 are not new. In 2009, property owners were given an opportunity to approve higher L&L benefit assessments to provide additional revenue for park and landscape maintenance. Residents did not approve the proposed benefit assessment increase at that time. In November 2017, Cosumnes CSD conducted a survey among Benefit Zone 3 property owners to gauge support for a benefit assessment increase. Because the survey results were well below the minimum threshold needed to approve a new overlay assessment district, Cosumnes CSD did not proceed with an official vote.
Residents surrounding Jordan Family Park passed an additional overlay assessment of $194.91 in 2009 when the initial funding shortfall in Benefit Zone 3 was identified. As such, Benefit Zone 15 – Vista Creek, was created to maintain the park at a normal level. We call these additional assessments “overlays" and they supplement the original benefit assessment.
One possible solution is the creation of an overlay assessment district for the underfunded parks in Benefit Zone 3 to close the gap between landscape maintenance and asset replacement expenditures, and benefit assessment revenues. Increased benefit assessment funding would be used to restore the service level reductions and put Elk Grove / West Vineyard on a sustainable financial path.
Cosumnes CSD has been successful at increasing landscape maintenance funding in other Benefit Zones when residents band together to form a community champion group to help educate their neighbors about park funding and landscape maintenance. The Cosumnes CSD will work with these community champion groups on educational material, and community outreach meetings. Once there appears to be enough community support, staff can present the information to the Board and recommend Cosumnes CSD hold an official ballot proceeding to establish a new overlay assessment district.