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‘Ludicrous.’ Citrus Heights vice mayor objects to gas taxes paying for landscaping

Vice Mayor Bret Daniels speaks during a July 27, 2023, City Council meeting.

By Phillip Pesola–
During the Citrus Heights City Council’s July 27 meeting, council members held public hearings to address landscape maintenance and lighting assessment districts for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Assessment districts are areas with special fees tacked on to property taxes for certain parcels in the city to cover specific maintenance of areas associated with those parcels. At least one of the districts has a negative budget, lacking funds to pay for maintenance, causing supplementary funds to be pulled from elsewhere.

Councilmember Jayna Karpinski-Costa expressed concerns about subsidizing one zone, Creek Ridge, which currently pays a lower assessment compared to other zones after refusing to raise their assessment three times. As a result, the zone, which staff said is “heavily renter-occupied,” has received subsidies from the city’s Measure A gas tax funds.

The councilwoman suggested finding ways to reduce the burden on the rest of the city and proposed sending property owners a separate bill to see if they would voluntarily contribute more. The council discussed the possibility of sending communications to the property owners, encouraging them to consider increasing their assessment voluntarily to maintain the landscaping of their properties.

Vice Mayor Bret Daniels objected to using gas tax funds to subsidize districts that refuse to increase their assessments, calling it “ludicrous.”

“I find that just ludicrous, just ludicrous, that we would do such a thing,” he said, calling it is unfair to use funds meant for road improvements for landscaping.

A city staff member responded to Daniels during the meeting and said gas taxes are allowed by law to be used for “other ancillary items within the transportation system.” An option to discontinue upkeep of under-funded areas to address shortfalls was not supported due to the likely consequence not fitting with the city’s ongoing priority to beautify the city.

Following the discussion, the council approved resolutions for each landscape maintenance district to confirm the assessments and levies for fiscal year 2023-24.

During a separate item addressing lighting assessment districts, some council members expressed concerns about existing deficits and the need for additional funds to improve lighting in the city.

“I think the lights in the city are horrible,” Karpinski-Costa said. “I mean, we need more lighting in the city, there’s no doubt about it.”

The councilwoman also suggested raising the assessment rate in certain zones to generate more revenue for installing new streetlights and covering maintenance costs, arguing that better lighting would improve public safety and quality of life.

Mayor Tim Schaefer voiced reservations about increasing taxes further, as there may be opposition from residents who already feel burdened by existing taxes.

Ultimately, the council voted in favor of adopting a resolution to proceed with the proposed lighting assessment district levy for the new fiscal year. No comments were made during public hearings.

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