City may need to cut service in 11 neighborhoods that failed to
pass an increase
Property owners within five sub-areas of Morgan Hill’s Fox Hollow/ Murphy Springs Landscape and Lighting Assessment District will see their tax bills increase this year, with some by as much as $140, in order to maintain common areas in their neighborhoods such as parks and landscaping on street medians.

Because maintenance expenses have outpaced the assessments in 16 sub-areas in the district, the city held a vote, sending ballots to 706 of the 755 residents in the sub-areas to increase their tax assessment or endure cuts to the maintenance services of their areas.

Twenty sub-areas comprise the district, and pursuant to the California Street and Highways Code, property owners in these sub-areas must pay the cost of operating, maintaining and servicing the landscaping and lights in the common areas.

Revenues have failed to meet expenses in 16 sub-areas in the district with expenses in some areas exceeding their maximum assessment rate. Some sub-areas have a negative balance in their accounts of as much as $3,000. Property owners in these sub-areas were asked to approve an increase of their assessment, add a 3 percent annual inflation to their rates, or both.

But with only five sub-areas approving the increase, the 11 others could see minimal maintenance on the landscaping in their areas.

“We’ll meet with the contractor and discuss how we can make revenues meet expenses and this may ultimately mean a cut in services,” acknowledged Mori Struve, Deputy Director of Public Works Operations. It may mean less irrigation in some areas, less lighting, and even less mowing. The contractor for the district is Flora Terra of San Jose. The company is also responsible in maintaining the roadway medians, the Aquatic Center and Civic Center, said Struve.

Though some of the proposed increases were modest, less than $60 per year, others were significant increases to the large assessments residents already pay annually. For example, the Conte Gardens sub-area, where the measure failed, would have seen a $272 increase a year – bringing their total to almost $750 annually.

Typically, sub-areas with larger resident populations saw lower increases such as Mill Creek. The $18-a-year increase still failed in that area, with 18 residents voting against and 16 voting in favor.

“For many in the neighborhood, it’s a question of choices,” said Mark Gill, a Mill Creek resident who didn’t vote. “I think people want to have a say, or some control on where the money for upkeep is going. It’s not that they dislike the outcome. It’s just that they want to have a say on where their money is going.”

Kaye Feskanin, who also lives in Mill Creek, believes the increase was worth the small price to keep the neighborhood looking good. She said the entrance area and nearby park “make up the cornerstone of the neighborhood and I would hate to see it deteriorate.”

The new rates for the five sub-areas that passed the proposition will begin this month and the increase will reflect on their tax bills in December and April.

While only a third of the sub-areas in the district passed the proposition, Struve remained optimistic. He said a past rate increase attempt failed in all three sub-areas it included. He was glad to note this time, five sub-areas approved the assessment increase and turnout was good. Of 706 property owners affected, the city received over 300 ballots.

Struve understands the concern of residents, like those in Mill Creek, who want control of their own tax dollars.

“Ideally, I’d like to see the city send letters to the property owners and ask their input on improvements to these areas, what they would like to see done to their areas…,” he said. “In the case of the five sub-areas that approved the increase, it’s a step in that direction. For the others, it may mean three steps backward. We’ll have to see where it’s going to lead.”

Previous articleAnthony Michael Fernandez-Rodriguez
Next articleNo headline provided
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here