Wildomar City Council was unanimous in its decision Wednesday night to go full steam ahead on parks.
In several separate 4-0 votes, If passed by two-thirds of qualified city voters in November, the measure will see a $28 annual special tax imposed on Wildomar property owners for the purpose of maintaining and funding local parks.
Assistant City Manager Gary Nordquist said the parks’ measure, if passed, is expected to generate approximately $350,000 in annual revenues for the city, more than enough to fund maintenance and programs at Wildomar’s three existing parks.
The ballot language adopted Wednesday night states the proposed tax would be used to reopen Windsong and Heritage parks, and would prevent closure of Marna O’Brien park. The proposed tax would also “restore funding for recreational services/community events, maintain safe playground equipment, clean public restrooms, sports fields, and youth/children’s recreation/after-school programs, restore park security patrols/safety lighting, and remove graffiti …,” according to the adopted ballot language.
Council members also unanimously voted to appoint Mayor Ben Benoit and Councilwoman Bridgette Moore to an ad hoc committee that will spearhead drafting of the ballot argument and rebuttal.
While audience members at Wednesday night’s meeting expressed overwhelming support for the special tax measure, there was some concern over campaign spending.
Council members voted 4-0 to amend a contract with the consulting firm of Lew Edwards Group to the tune of $35,500 for professional services that will include creation of mailers, as well as informational and presentation materials, to support the parks’ measure.
The Lew Edwards Group was already tapped by the city
In arguing in support of the amended contract, Mayor Pro Tem Tim Walker said public education and outreach are critical to ensuring the measure’s passage in November.
“We have to be able to get the message out,” he said.
John Lloyd serves on the all-volunteer Friends For Wildomar Parks, an organization that has worked to raise funds to keep Marna O’Brien Park open. He said educating the public is key.
“They [the voters] have to know the facts,” he said.
-- which also asked city voters if they were willing to pay a special tax to keep parks open -- Moore said she talked to many constituents who were not tuned in to the issue last year.
“They didn’t know,” Moore explained, noting that, for those who did have awareness about Measure D, many didn’t cast a ballot because they assumed the initiative was a slam dunk.
“They thought it was going to pass,” she said of Measure D.
The council members told Wednesday night's audience that this year’s parks’ measure involves a flat tax that won't ever be increased. Moore was emphatic that the tax dollars would stay local and could not be touched by Sacramento.
Council members said the tax dollars would be used solely for parks. During the meeting, Benoit asked city attorneys whether the ballot language as drafted would allow Wildomar to use a portion of the proposed special tax to fund city trails, but the answer was a swift “No.”
None of the council members objected.
Council members also promised no liens would be placed on properties whose owners don’t pay the special tax, although an additonal annual $5 fine would be tacked on to delinquent tax bills.
Moore, a longtime parks’ supporter, said November will be make or break for Wildomar parks.
“This is it,” she said. “We have to give it our all. We have to win.”
Editor's note: Wildomar Councilwoman Marsha Swanson was absent Wednesday night.