The supervisors put $3.5 million aside for a study and campaign, and other uses. The study would explore whether voters might approve a ballot measure asking for the tax money. A portion of the funds would go to support a possible campaign in favor of the initiative. Another portion of the money could go toward engineering studies and consultant fees. Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe opposed the move. “We’ve asked for a lot of information, and we’ve yet to receive any,” Knabe said. County officials are considering a plan to raise money for clean water by adding a fee to the tax bills sent to property owners. Almost every aspect of the proposal is still being developed – whether or not to go forward with a campaign, how much money county residents might be assessed, or what form an assessment would take. Approximately $30 billion is needed over the next 20 years to clean up the county’s storm water runoff, which regularly pollutes rivers and the coastline, said Donald Wolfe, the head of Public Works. If the county fails to act, it could face expensive lawsuits from environmental groups for failing to comply with state and federal clean water acts, warned William Fujioka, the county’s CEO. Antonovich said the county shouldn’t be picking up the bill for clean-water requirements mandated by the federal government. “Let’s not let our (congressional) delegation off the hook,” Antonovich said. “The county of Los Angeles, like other counties, does not have the ability to implement all of the mandates from the federal government. When the federal government imposes these types of mandates … they have a responsibility of funding those.” Although only three votes were required to set aside the $3.5 million and give the go-ahead to Fujioka, four votes will be required if the supervisors decide to put the issue to voters in a countywide election, noted Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. However, there is a way to do it with three votes, said Judith Fries, principal deputy county counsel. Fujioka’s office is considering a mail ballot to property owners instead of a countywide vote. Mail ballots must be authorized under a specific statute, Fries said. The flood-control act and the health and safety code are two avenues being explored as linchpins for such a ballot, Fries said. Using flood-control statutes would require three supervisor votes for a mail ballot, while health and safety would require four votes, according to Fries. Whatever form the ballot takes, Yaroslavsky said the fee could help clean up county beaches that are frequently closed due to pollution after a rainstorm. After last weekend’s showers, he had to explain to visiting relatives that it wasn’t safe to go in the water, he said. “We’re not the Third World,” Yaroslavsky said. Fujioka was careful to point out that the supervisors’ vote does not mean the county will move forward with a parcel fee. “A decision has not been made to do it,” Fujioka said. “It will take a significant effort to even determine – if we do a parcel tax – what one person’s share would be, and it will take a huge amount of support from the community.” The $3.5 million will give his office a chance to “explore an appropriate funding method,” he said. “I don’t want to say property tax … the primary focus right now is a parcel fee.” A parcel fee would show up on property tax bills and be based on how much each parcel contributed to the region’s pollution, said Wolfe. The fee would be calculated based on the size of the parcel, how the property is used (residential or industrial, for example), and runoff amounts. Runoff would be determined based on whether the property had large amounts of open ground where water could seep in, or large amounts of paved surfaces that water would rush off, Wolfe said. “The beaches get closed every time there’s a storm because of the pollution … the urban slobber … that we as citizens are continually dumping into the storm drain,” Wolfe said. Early polls indicate that people would be willing to pay $20-$40 per parcel, enough to raise $100 million annually but still far short of what is needed, Wolfe said. “The board would have to make a decision,” he added, “as to whether or not they are going to give the voters an option to say yes or no.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!