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Property Owners Back Added Assessment for Parks

Rancho Simi: Nearly 60% of returned ballots favor it. Board OKs the tax to expand and maintain facilities.


Property owners in Simi Valley and Oak Park agreed to dig deeper in their wallets and have backed a new annual property tax for the upkeep and expansion of community parks.

The decision is the result of a mail-in vote conducted the past six weeks by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. Thursday was the voting deadline.

Of the ballots returned, 59.9%--representing 7,163 parcels in the district--approved the new assessment, which is expected to add nearly $1.2 million a year to the district's $9.8-million budget. About 28% of those sent ballots returned them.

Directors on the park district board were quietly pleased with the results, which will allow for some long-delayed maintenance.

"Thank you," said James L. Meredith, one of the board's five directors.

The board accepted the election results and voted unanimously to begin the assessment on property tax bills sent out after July 1.

About 44,000 property owners in the district will pay $24 a year for the average-size home, $16.56 for a condominium, and $6 for vacant land or $12 for vacant land slated to be developed. Most commercial property would be taxed at about $48 a year.

The park board said it views the public's acceptance of the tax as a ratification of its 10-year plan to finish several partially completed and undeveloped parks.

Officials say the district has had enough money from developer fees to finish at least four parks--Rancho Madera Community, Old Windmill, West Highlands and Sycamore Canyon--but did not because it could not maintain them.

At two other parks, the district had not collected enough in developer fees to pay for facilities, such as tennis courts and an amphitheater, which can now be completed, according to Rick Johnson, a district spokesman.

Johnson said income from the tax will also go to increase safety and lighting in parks, upgrade classrooms for programs before and after school, and other projects.

The park district, which includes Simi Valley and Oak Park, serves 127,000 residents and has 41 parks and more than 2,300 acres of open space.

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