12/25/2012 09:29:12 PM PST :: LONG BEACH - The county's Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure is meant to clear polluted waters, but educators say the plan will drain millions of dollars from cash-strapped schools.
Under the plan, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is proposing
an annual fee for all property owners to help clean up polluted waterways and recharge groundwater supplies.
School districts across the county are opposing the plan, saying the fee could cost districts countywide about $14 million a year - resulting in the loss of up to 200 teachers. This would be a significant financial burden to schools already struggling under years of state funding cuts, district officials say.
The fees are based on the size of each property, how it's used, and the percentage of property covered in hard surfaces, which causes water runoff. The average single-family home would be charged about $54 annually, while 75 percent of commercial properties would be charged $420 or less. Typical "big box" stores or other large retailers would see a fee of about $11,000 per year.
L.A. County's Flood Control District says the fees are necessary to treat storm-water runoff and increase groundwater supplies that can be used for drinking water.
The county's two largest school districts - Los Angeles Unified and Long Beach Unified - would see significant costs. Los Angeles is slated to pay $4.8 million annually, while Long Beach would be charged $715,000.
Last week, mthe Long Beach Unified Board of Education voted unanimously to officially oppose the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure.
Officials said the district, which has cut more than $330 million from its budget in the past five years and laid off more than 1,000 employees, can't afford to pay an additional $715,000 in fees.
In a letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors this year, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy and Long Beach Unified Superintendent Chris Steinhauser asked the board to reconsider the plan.
"We would welcome the opportunity to continue a dialogue with the county on finding alternative solutions that do not harm core educational programs serving the children of Los Angeles County," the letter says.
Kerjon Lee, a spokesman for L.A. County Public Works, said the county is working with schools to help mitigate the costs, but any exemptions for school districts would be unfair to other property owners.
"We're certainly sensitive to issues schools face in terms of budget, and we're actively working with schools to address their concerns," he said. "We're hopeful that our discussion with school boards will result in a positive outcome."
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the measure on Jan. 15 at 9:30a.m. in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles. Following the meeting, the board could decide to bring the issue to property owners, who will vote via mail-in ballot.