Landscape Maintenance FAQ
What is a Landscape Maintenance District?
A Maintenance District is created to pay for the costs of ongoing maintenance and improvement of public landscaping that provides special benefits to properties in given areas of the City. Special benefits are defined as improvements that increase the desirability or value of property directly associated with the enhanced improvements. Within the City of Tracy's Landscape Maintenance District, there are 37 special benefit zones, each being assessed fees according to the specific costs associated with the landscaping requirements of that zone.
What areas of the City does the Landscape Maintenance District cover?
Most public landscaping along Tracy's streets and entrances to various residential communities (“medians”) are maintained through the LMD. Additionally, 45 parks are maintained by the LMD. Within these areas, the District is responsible for maintaining all irrigation and sprinkler systems, turf, trees, shrubs and bushes in parks and medians; and equipment in parks such as shade structures, drinking fountains, and play equipment.
How can I find out if I live in a LMD zone and/or whether our zone is funded or under funded?
The easiest way to determine your zone and its funding level is to call the City's Public Works Department at (209) 831-6300.
How is the Landscape Maintenance District funded?
Property owners in the LMD pay an annual assessment for this maintenance. Each property owner is assessed annually for a portion of the maintenance costs in their zone. The assessments are established on a “zone-by-zone” basis and are paid by the property owner through the County's property tax bill.
How are the assessments determined and set?
Each year the City evaluates the anticipated costs for maintenance for the upcoming year. This evaluation takes into consideration any increases in costs as well as cost savings realized. Some of the costs that are evaluated include: routine maintenance and mowing contracts; equipment repair; weed abatement; shrub and tree pruning; radios and computers; irrigation parts and controllers; water; electricity; fertilizer and other chemicals; vehicles and vehicle maintenance; and other administrative costs to operate the LMD.
An annual budget is developed using those costs. The total costs are divided among the parcels in each zone based on the proportionate share of benefit received from the improvements. The proposed assessments are then reviewed and approved each year by the City Council during a public hearing process.
How can the assessments be raised?
By law, assessments can only be raised up to three percent per year to account for maintenance cost increases that occur. Any increase of more than three percent requires the approval of the property owners by mail-in ballot.
Why are assessments different for each zone?
Each zone is a small geographic area of the city and within those zones there are different types of landscaping and parks that must be maintained. Some of the differences include the age of the landscaping, the amount and type of landscaping, and the size and condition of the landscaping. All of these factors play a role in determining the actual maintenance costs for the landscaping and parks within a particular zone. Additionally, some zones are larger than others and may have more property owners sharing in the costs.
Why are we seeing different levels of maintenance throughout the Landscape Maintenance District?
The City has tried to maintain a uniform level of maintenance throughout the landscaped areas and parks. Under Assessment District law, the City can only use funds collected from property owners within a zone for costs associated directly and specifically with that zone. In some zone areas, the assessments allowed by law have not been sufficient to pay for basic maintenance costs; so, essentially, some zones have been “under funded.” This is especially true when considering the costs necessary to replace dying plants and trees, replace or repair vandalized equipment, or renovate older parks and irrigation systems.
In 2003, property owners in certain zones were mailed ballots and asked to vote on increases in their assessments to fund the basic maintenance costs in their areas. While some of these zones were in favor of an increase in their assessments, some other zones did not approve an increase. Therefore, in order to keep the LMD budget balanced, cuts and reductions have been made in the frequency and type of maintenance being performed in each of the under-funded zones.
Essentially, the maintenance standards are now different as a result of the variance in available funds. Property owners and residents will continue to see a difference in the levels of maintenance being provided throughout the various LMD zones in the City.
What about the future?
The LMD has developed priorities for services that most affect the community and the property owners, particularly when budgets are tight. In those zones where funding is not sufficient to pay for all of the maintenance required, the LMD has set the following maintenance priorities:
- Safety items considered first and primary.
- Keeping parks safe, open and available to the public.
- Responding to vandalism.
- Keeping turf and plant materials in healthy condition.
- Removing, but not replacing, dead and dying plant materials.
- Thinning and scaling back landscaping to lower maintenance requirements.
- Providing staff support for community and neighborhoods participating in maintenance and clean up efforts.
The City will also be making some improvements to a number of median landscaped areas. The goal will be to make one-time improvements, such as the installation of additional hardscape or low- maintenance ground covering. These efforts will reduce future maintenance costs and help all zones to remain within their budgets