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Mosquito Board Hears 2 Scenarios on Its Future

Government: Members of the abatement panel are told group could be merged into city operations or remain independent but cut back.

March 05, 1997|DAVID R. BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MOORPARK — Board members of Moorpark's embattled Mosquito Abatement District heard two radically different--but equally radical--suggestions Tuesday for the future of their pest-control organization.

The three-person agency could become part of Moorpark's city government. Or it could remain independent but cut back, or even eliminate, the amount of tax money it receives each year. In fiscal 1995-96, the district's share of property taxes amounted to about $142,000.

The first suggestion, which received a cool response from the district board, came from City Councilman Chris Evans. He proposed the city take over the district's operations and most of its $1.4-million reserve fund. The money, he said, could be used for a number of city projects or funds.

"It's the voters' money, and it's just sitting there," he said before Tuesday's district board meeting. "The taxpayers deserve some benefit from the money."

Another proposal--that the district reduce the amount of tax revenue it receives--had been suggested by board members soon after the district came under fire in January for amassing such a large reserve. But at Tuesday's meeting, board members heard for the first time how such a plan could actually work.

Thomas Mahon, Ventura County's auditor-controller, told the district board that it could ask county officials to reduce the amount of property tax it receives.

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The Moorpark district now collects an average of $14 per parcel each year, far higher than the $1.12 paid by property owners elsewhere in Ventura County.

Residents throughout the district would have their tax bills reduced, while the district--which monitors and reduces the number of mosquitoes and flies in and around Moorpark--operated through its reserve fund. Mahon said the board could later return to their current tax level simply by notifying the county.

Board members Jim Hartley and Bill LaPerch will now put together a formal proposal for reducing the district's ongoing tax income.

"We have a number of options, from keeping zero dollars to keeping $1.4 million," LaPerch said. "The truth will probably be somewhere in the middle."

The district's $1.4-million reserve has been the source of criticism from Supervisor Judy Mikels, who has questioned why the district needs such a sizable stockpile of cash.

Board members have replied that the money may be needed in the future to fight a sudden infestation of mosquitoes, flies or other disease-carrying insects.

Evans, who will also present his proposal to the City Council tonight, rejected the idea that a pest outbreak would cost as much as $1.4 million to fight.

"There's no way they could spend all that money unless they had an infestation of the world's largest rats," he said.

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The district board, during its meeting Tuesday, said little in response to Evans' suggestions.

But LaPerch later downplayed the possibility of yielding control of his agency to the city.

"We've done well for 33 years," he said. "I don't think the city could make us more efficient."

Under Evans' proposal, the district's two full-time employees would become city workers.

A governing commission, possibly represented by the district's current board members, would oversee the program for the first year of transition to city control, then be phased out.

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