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VENTURA COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Conejo Park Assessment

February 25, 2001

Re "District to Discuss Proposed Taxes," Feb. 1.

Will the taxpayers get a fair shake when the Conejo Recreation and Park District asks for approval of an assessment district?

Because of Proposition 218, the election will be conducted by mail ballot with property owners receiving a ballot for each parcel they own. Only the ballots returned will be counted.

The provision in Proposition 218 that causes me concern is the requirement that all publicly owned property be assessed and therefore provided a vote for each parcel. What does that mean? Well, the city of Thousand Oaks has 360 parcels--and hence 360 votes. The Conejo Valley Unified School District has 46 parcels. The park district (yes, it can vote on its own assessment district) has 125 parcels, and the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency has 166 parcels. These parcels make up 1.4% of the total votes.

Because the publicly owned parcels would be paying the proposed assessment with taxpayers' dollars, I would ask that these agencies not vote their parcels. Let's keep the playing field level.

JERE ROBINGS

Thousand Oaks

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For years, the state has been shifting millions of dollars in property taxes originally earmarked for California's park and recreation districts to meet other state obligations. Since 1992, the Conejo Recreation and Park District has been stripped of almost $8 million.

As one might imagine, this loss has not only wreaked havoc on the district's ability to maintain and create new parks and sports fields, but also on its ability to preserve and maintain the Conejo's beautiful open space. This situation is exacerbated by expanding population and ever-rising costs.

To satisfy our community's strong desire for parks and open space, the district is seeking a property tax assessment via local ballot. This effort is being driven and funded by a grass-roots volunteer citizens group called Support Our Parks and Open Space. Every dollar spent on the campaign has been raised through donations from the community. No public or park money is being used. The measure is not just aimed at the district's homeowners, but at all property owners.

If successful, the assessment would amount to $25 annually per quarter-acre, with a 3% cost-of-living increase cap.

As a Thousand Oaks property owner, I see the assessment as an extremely modest annual fee toward improving my investment and overall property values in our community through its beautification and maintenance. That attractive benefit aside, I see this as an environmental quality of life issue. Every district resident would benefit from its passage.

I urge all other property owners throughout the district to join me in voting an emphatic yes on this important measure.

TIM HEYNE

Thousand Oaks

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As a lifetime resident of the Conejo Valley, I would like to tell you about the benefits to life offered by the Conejo Recreation and Park District.

I have participated in its recreation programs, concerts in the park and hikes in the vast open space. I have participated as an active member of a teen volunteer program, and I have had the pleasure to be employed as a recreation leader and contract instructor.

I could not begin to list the numerous ways in which my experiences with the district have enriched my life. I have seen and felt the district's positive impact on the community.

On March 1, ballots will be mailed to property owners asking for a yearly assessment to maintain the wonderful things that the park district has to offer. I ask you and the community to support this effort.

DEBORA L. SONTAG

Thousand Oaks

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The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of the Conejo Valley places 1,300 senior volunteers throughout the year in 158 local agencies. Volunteers work with such organizations as the Thousand Oaks Police Department, Conejo Valley Unified School District, Meals on Wheels, Civic Arts Plaza, Senior Concerns and the libraries, just to mention a few.

As a member of the RSVP Advisory Council, I am grateful that the Conejo Recreation and Park District had the foresight 27 years ago to implement this program in cooperation with the Corporation for National Service. This program literally touches everyone in the community.

It's evident that the park district has done an outstanding job augmenting many public services in the Conejo Valley through this program. However, the district has been severely challenged in recent years by a loss of funds seized by the state.

To compensate for this loss, the district is asking homeowners to vote on a $25 annual property assessment.

To me, that is a small price to pay for the many benefits we enjoy in the Conejo Valley. Please join me in voting yes on this measure.

JACKIE PIZITZ

Thousand Oaks

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