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By Joe Naiman
Village News Reporter 

Street lighting district assessment decreased


Last updated 7/9/2021 at 8:18pm

The annual assessment for properties in Zone A of the San Diego County Street Lighting District has been decreased.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote June 30 lowered the assessment from $10 to $7 per equivalent dwelling unit. The action also approved the engineer's report. In 2020 the county completed a retrofit of street lights from high-pressure sodium bulbs to light emitting diode illumination, and the energy cost savings allowed for the assessment decrease.

The San Diego County Street Lighting District was formed in September 1987 and includes the entirety of unincorporated San Diego County. Zone A covers parcels which benefit from street lights in the district while Zone B consists of the remainder of the district.

The San Diego County Street Lighting District maintains 10,416 lights in residential areas and along major roadways; the county owns 6,730 of those while the other 3,686 are owned by San Diego Gas & Electric. Zone A covers nearly 100,000 parcels and more than 120,000 benefit units.

In 1987, voters approved an assessment rate of up to $25 per benefit unit, with a single-family home equating to one benefit unit. The other maximum approved assessments are $850 per acre for commercial property, $150 per acre for institutional buildings, $50 per acre for industrial land, $25 per acre for recreational parcels, and $2.50 per acre for farm land.

The assessment was reduced from $23 to $2.50 per benefit unit in 1990 and stayed at $2.50 until 2004, when rising energy costs and a state budget shift from special districts did not allow efficiency to offset the additional expenses. The assessment per benefit unit was increased to $5.33 for fiscal year 2004-05, $5.60 for 2005-06, $5.88 for 2006-07, $6.17 for 2007-08, and $6.48 for 2008-09. Stabilized energy, labor, and material costs allowed the assessment to remain unchanged at $6.48 per equivalent dwelling unit from 2008 to 2015.

Increased energy prices and the phased retrofit of the LED illumination resulted in the increase to $13.50 per benefit unit for 2016-17. The conversion to LED bulbs began in 2017. The assessment was reduced to $10 for 2020-21 due to the energy savings from the LED bulbs already installed.

The San Diego County Street Lighting District receives revenue from the base property tax and from interest on reserves as well as from the benefit assessment.

The 2021-22 operating budget is $2,838,156, an increase from the 2020-21 budget of $2,715,403, but the annual repayment for the California Energy Commission loan which financed the LED retrofit program increases from $167,270 to $508,752 while utility payments to San Diego Gas & Electric are reduced from $1,324,445 to $1,151,700.

The district will utilize $565,493 of reserves for fiscal year 2021-22 but will retain nearly $4 million in its reserve fund.


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