SCCA President, Stanley Howard, Howard Contracting

There’s yet another new tax that will be assessed in Los Angeles County. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the tax is relatively small. It’s a parcel tax that mandates a 2.5 cent/square foot assessment on all buildings located in LA County. So the owner, for example, of a 2,500-squarefoot home would pay $62.50 a year. That amount would be absorbed as part of the county’s annual tax. The new parcel tax does exempt low-income seniors, as well as property owned by governments, schools and some non-profits.

The best news is that this new tax will go to promote more construction jobs, about 6,500 according to some estimates.

The new tax was passed by Measure W in Los Angeles County in November 2018. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass and received 69.5 percent. All of the funds will be spent on improving and maintaining LA County’s stormwater runoff in order to improve water quality through the construction of small and large infrastructure projects.

County estimates found Measure W will produce about $300 million in revenue. But that number is deceivingly low because many of the proposed projects will be matched with state and federal funding.

It’s typical that matching funds can increase actual funding to two to three times the local contribution. So the $300 million is probably going to be closer to $600 million to $900 million in revenue.

Funding will be divided almost equally between local municipalities (the 88 LA County cities and the unincorporated areas within the county) and with regional programs that reflect LA County’s water sheds.

The largest city, Los Angeles, will receive $38 million and a smaller one, such as La Verne, will receive $620,000. Remember those figures are only the local contributions and will likely increase two to three times when matching funds are included. The county will receive about $12.5 million in funds, as well. Revenues will be received on an annual basis.

The regional programs will reflect the lion’s share of the funding and this chart shows the breakdown. Each regional program is broken down by watershed and governed by a steering committee. These committees are an important oversight tool to ensure the revenues are expended appropriately.

What does this mean for SCCA? It means there will be a wide range of engineering projects for our industry. What types of projects? The smaller projects will incorporate ways for stormwater runoff to be absorbed into the ground. They are literally that simple. Some examples include using permeable materials in parking lots so stormwater is absorbed into the ground.

Another example is something called vegetated bioswales that utilize depressions to direct runoff into vegetation, allowing the water to infiltrate the ground.

On the larger end, the regional program projects governed by the steering committees will incorporate much larger engineering projects, such as the Dominguez Gap Wetlands project that diverts water out of the LA River and into adjacent wetlands.

Providing a steady stream of revenue for small to large engineering projects is the best way to maintain a healthy construction industry. Look for Measure W projects to hit the Greensheet in the near future.

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