Long Beach Health Department officials thought they had a pretty good idea to bring in more money for vector control — mosquito eradication, rodents, etc. — in part of the city.
Ask property owners to help pay for it.
Results of a landowner-only vote were released at the July 16 City Council meeting. The proposed property assessment failed, and the Health Department will continue to find ways to cover its vector control responsibility with other financing, according to Nelson Kerr, Environmental Health Bureau manager.
Many cities charged with taking care of potentially disease-carrying pests such as mosquitoes pay for it by charging those who benefit from the service. Most often, that's done in the form of a Benefit Assessment; a property assessment or tax.
So Long Beach, which is responsible for about 60 percent of the city for vector control, decided to propose a parcel tax. As written, it would cost an average of $8.71 a year per parcel.
"We wanted to create a stable funding source," Kerr said. "Right now, it's a bit erratic. The money comes from the Health Fund, and there can be other priorities… But we will continue to provide excellent service."
Kerr noted that the money from the assessment would have been supplemental — the city still would have paid about $100,000 from other sources.
The Health Fund is primarily state money from sales tax revenue and vehicle license fees, and that amount changes from year to year as well.
In an Electoral College sort of twist, there actually were more yes votes, 7,760, than no votes, 6,484. But because the assessment is based on property value, the votes were weighted by how much each land owner's property was worth.
And, despite the city voting in favor of taxing all its property, the proposal failed when the assessed value was factored in. The value of the yes vote property was $85,225.62 while the property owned by the no voters is worth $101,032.72.
City Clerk Monique De La Garza certified the results. Her office said that of the 63,564 ballots mailed out on May 17, 14,404 were returned. That's a 22.66 percent return rate.
Long Beach's vector control efforts are primarily education and surveillance, trying to eliminate areas were mosquitoes can breed (standing water). Some spraying is done when necessary, Kerr said. He added that he took no satisfaction in the fact that the first mosquito found in Long Beach carrying the West Nile virus was found the week after the results were announced.
Besides, that mosquito was found in the part of the city where Los Angeles County is responsible for vector control.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.