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Westside seeks options

Residents examine report before they decide to incorporate, annex or remain unincorporated

Posted: June 15, 2009 10:45 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
According to westside residents, Tuesday's governance meeting didn't live up to expectations.

"The way it was advertised, I thought I was going to see a comparison list," said Mike Bode, of Stevenson Ranch.

Bode was among a crowd of more than 100 residents of the westside communities of Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Sunset Pointe and Tesoro who showed up to the first of two informational meeting on the governance options for the westside.

In November, voters will decide between three governance options for the westside communities. In a non-binding vote, residents can decide to incorporate and form a city on the westside, annex into the city of Santa Clarita or stay as unincorporated area under Los Angeles County control.

Tuesday's meeting was the first chance for residents to view the initial feasibility report. The feasibility report weighed whether the westside communities could incorporate.

According to the report, a newly incorporated city on the westside would generate enough income to produce a $4.5 million surplus by its third year of existence, said Richard Berkson, Economic and Planning Systems spokesman. Economic and Planning Systems compiled the feasibility analysis.

During Tuesday's meeting, Berkson said there are a few variables that weren't calculated that could impact the proposed city's surplus. One such variable is a revenue neutrality payment to the county.

The revenue neutrality payment is calculated as what Los Angeles County loses in revenue through incorporation minus the previous service cost for the newly incorporated area. The projected net loss would be $3 million, Berkson said.

How much the newly incorporated city would be forced to pay the county is negotiable and so is the length of the payments.

"It could last 10 to 15 years, and in some cases up to 20 or 30 years of payments," Berkson said.

In the case of Goleta in Santa Barbara County the payments are in perpetuity.

Berkson didn't just focus on variable he took time to highlight the pros and cons of incorporation during the meeting.

"The pros are you have some control over local revenue," he said. "The con is you don't have the backing of the county and its $1 billion budget."

While Berkson detailed the pros and cons of incorporation many in the crowd wondered what happened to the rest of the governance information.

"According to the flier this was a meeting about all the options," said Lynn Evans, 48, of Castaic. "I was here to talk about annexation. I had no idea as an 18-year resident of Castaic that anyone was considering incorporation."

The information on the different governance options is contained in the options report. The option report has been delayed multiple times and will not be available until the fall, Berkson said.

Not having that report frustrates some residents.

"The next time we get to talk about this is September and then we have to turn around and vote less than two months later in November," Bode said.

The next public information meeting on governance is Thursday at Castaic Middle School at 6:30 p.m.


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