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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : ELECTIONS / LANCASTER BALLOT MEASURE : City Wants County to Pay Bill if Tax Proposal Is Unnecessary


LANCASTER — The way irate Lancaster officials see it, county supervisors have stuck them with a $32,000 tab for a meaningless ballot measure.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a Nov. 8 ballot measure to ask residents if they would be willing to pay a property tax increase to support expanded local library services.

Lancaster's library, which is operated by the county, is open only four days a week.

But now it seems the tax might not be necessary. County supervisors--who earlier this year said city residents would have to fund additional library hours--say they have recently learned of an unexpected multimillion-dollar surplus in county funds.

Indeed, on Tuesday, three of the five supervisors said they will vote to scrap the county library tax plan, which includes the provision to collect taxes from residents of cities.

Lancaster officials agree the plan should be thrown out. "I don't think we need to help them with anything if they find that kind of money," Mayor Frank Roberts said Monday night.

County supervisors are scheduled to vote on the plan Oct. 14.

If the tax plan is rejected, as expected, Lancaster officials believe the advisory measure they've put on the ballot will have no value. That's where the $32,000 comes in. It's the estimated cost of adding the measure to the election ballots that are prepared by the county.

On Monday, council members voted unanimously to ask county supervisors to remove the library question from the ballot. And if it cannot be removed at this point, the council wants the county to pay the extra expenses.

"They're the ones who put us over the barrel in the first place," Councilman Michael Singer fumed.

Marcia Ventura, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office, said it's too late to remove it. The November ballots are already being printed, she said.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the Antelope Valley, blamed the "liberal majority" of the board for the situation.

"Here you have a community paying for an unnecessary election," he said Tuesday.

But Antonovich also said he does not believe the county can afford to repay Lancaster for the cost of the ballot measure.

"The resources we have, we are attempting to put into the libraries," he said.

Joel Bellman, a spokesman for Supervisor Ed Edelman, said Lancaster officials could have used less costly methods, such as public meetings, to gauge community support for the proposed fee.

"The county did not ask or require them to have an advisory vote," Bellman said.

Lancaster is one of four cities that opted to ask its voters if they are willing to pay up to $30 a year more in property taxes per single-family house to restore library services.

San Dimas, La Verne and Walnut--the other cities that have placed library tax advisory measures on the Nov. 8 ballot--have not voted at this point to seek reimbursement from the county.

County officials promised that the money collected in each city would only be used to restore hours and personnel at that city's branch library.

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