Bill Signed by Governor Will Help San Martin Incorporate

Community of 8,000 residents may become city in November
Morgan Hill – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that will make it easier for San Martin and other would-be cities to incorporate by ensuring state funds reach their coffers.

Before residents can vote to form a local government, they must show their local tax base is big enough to support essential services such as road maintenance and police and fire services.

The rural community of San Martin was on its way to meeting this goal in 2003, when Schwarzenegger – after taking office – repealed the tripling of the state’s vehicle license fee. As a result, there was less state money for local jurisdictions, including “new cities” in the pipeline.

Voters in 2004 tried to rectify the situation with Proposition 1A, which restored the missing state money by allowing schools to hand over property taxes to city governments and then get reimbursed by the state. But the measure provided nothing for “new cities” that would have gotten a portion of the raised vehicle license fees.

AB 1602, sponsored by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, restores state funds to new jurisdictions to give cities that are trying to incorporate the same opportunity as existed before Proposition 1A changed the rules.

No new cities have incorporated since Proposition 1A was passed.

Laird’s bill provides $50 per capita per year from the remaining vehicle-license-fee fund, which previously was distributed more widely among cities and counties.

“This bill restores a sense of fairness to the funding allocations that are critical for communities seeking self determination as cities,” Laird said.

There are about 8,000 people living in San Martin, sandwiched between Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Its boundaries were drawn by Santa Clara County for planning purposes. If the city incorporates, it may annex new land to expand east and west to the foothills on either side.

Sylvia Hamilton, president of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance, which for three years has spearheaded the effort to incorporate San Martin, worked with Laird to get the legislation started two years ago.

Since then, five other cities moving toward incorporation, including Carmel Valley in Monterey County, teamed up to gather support for the bill, which passed the legislature Aug. 20 in a landslide.

Hamilton said the neighborhood alliance is moving forward with its efforts to raise money to petition voters and conduct a comprehensive fiscal analysis in time for the November 2007 election.

“That’s our goal. We don’t know if it’s realistic yet until we work with (the Local Agency Formation Commission) to make sure all the pieces are in place. We’re starting A.S.A.P.,” Hamilton said.

The community has raised $50,000 for incorporation costs, but still needs another $100,000 for its comprehensive financial study. Another factor is paying LAFCO for its review of all documents submitted during the process.

To raise the money, the neighborhood alliance has plans for a golf tournament next spring, as well as a spaghetti social and another custom car show next summer.

So far, San Martin residents have spent $25,000 on preliminary feasibility studies.

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