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Taxes Cut By Citizen Action.
The Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise | Monday, January 10, 1977.
Spectacular evidence has turned up in Valencia that private enterprise can be more efficient than public service.
This idea, hardly a surprise to any citizen of Los Angeles County, has been proved again this year by a dramatic drop in taxes levied for the Landscape Maintenance Districts in Valencia.
In the current (1976-77) fiscal year, Valencia homeowners are paying a total of only 38 percent of what they paid in the previous tax for landscape maintenance. Total paid in all parts of Valencia dropped from $242,000 to $92,000 in that single year.
Two years ago, Valencia Hills residents paid a tax rate of $1.47 per $100 assessed valuation for landscape maintenance (parkways, paseos) by the county. This year the rate is roughly 40 cents. The owner of a $50,000 Hills home has seen the landscape item on his tax bill drop from $182.75 to $49.45.
The reason for this is that last year the county, after two years of foot dragging, finally signed a contract with a private company to do that work that previously had been done by maintenance crews from the Parks and Recreation Department.
Some of the drops were spectacular; in Old Orchard, for example, the rate dropped from 84 cents last year to 17 cents in the current year.
The saving is an illustration not only of how overpriced are the services of Los Angeles County. It is also a demonstration of how a single citizen can push an idea through to accomplishment.
The citizen in question is Carl Boyer III, who, it happens, is not even a resident of Valencia. But Boyer is a local-government buff, and was organizer and president of the local Federation of Homeowners' Associations.
Some time in early 1972 he was talking on the telephone to a deputy of former Supervisor Warren Dorn. The deputy happened to mention, casually, that Dorn had introduced a proposed ordinance which would allow landscape districts in outlying areas of the county to contract with private companies for maintenance.
Said the deputy, "Someone in Newhall Land and Farming said that their home buyers in Valencia were being overtaxed for landscaping, and so Dorn drew up the measure. But it's going to die tomorrow because no one has come forward to support it, and the county employees are opposing it."
Boyer decided that a day wasn't much, but anything was possible. He called Wayne Crawford of the Valencia Glen homeowners and asked him to start a "phone tree" to spread the word; he also told the story to The Signal.
The next day about fifty calls poured in to Dorn's office, and the Supervisors voted to put the measure on the November 1972 ballot. Boyer wrote letters to The Times and radio stations, successfully calling attention to Proposition D.
It passed, and the county then could go ahead with arranging for private-company contractors.
But the county moves ponderously. Throughout the next two years, both Boyer and The Signal periodically queried Parks and Recreation and the County Counsel. All queries got the answer that drawing up a contract is a difficult task, and the two departments were working on it.
At length a contract was completed and put out to bid, and on November 1, 1975, three years after the election, California Landscape Maintenance Inc. of Canoga Park undertook a two-year maintenance contract in Valencia.
This year of 1976-77 was the first in which the new system could be reflected in the tax rate, and the 62 percent drop is the result.
Richard Jarnagin, who supervises the districts for the Parks and Recreation Department, said that the private contractor has indeed brought considerable savings to the taxpayers.
"The savings this year were particularly high," Jarnagin said. "Next year there may be a slight tax raise, because one of the reasons for the dramatic reduction was that a surplus had piled up in some of the areas, and we used that this year. And we'll put the contract out to bid again sometime this year, since the present contract expires October 31."
Boyer, who in November was elected Canyon County Supervisor from the Newhall area, does not seem disturbed that his efforts on behalf of the Valencia residents have gone unthanked.
"I just hope that people will realize that by taking matters into our own hands this can be done with other districts, too. We could do more with city incorporation.
"It's pretty hard to make people believe how many unnecessary taxes we're paying," he said. "It's things like this that may convince them."