Court ruling a setback for Menifee’s effort to take over management of 22 parks

To provide improved services at lower costs with local oversight, the City of Menifee sought to make all Menifee public parks city-run. In a decision released on December 16, the Riverside County Superior Court found that Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) was within its authority to impose what the city believes are two unfair conditions on the city in order to take over control of 22 parks located within Menifee city limits. As a practical matter, the court’s decision means the city cannot complete the annexation at this time.

Valley-Wide Recreation & Park District (Valley-Wide) oversees 22 parks within Menifee’s city limits and had been providing parks and landscape maintenance services east of I-15 within Menifee prior to the City of Menifee’s incorporation.

Valley-Wide assesses taxes on Menifee residents to operate these parks, yet Valley-Wide has no Menifee residents on its board of directors. In addition, Valley-Wide’s main offices are located in San Jacinto, which is about 30-minute drive from Menifee.

The city feels that if they operated the 22 parks, it could provide better services that are more tailored to community needs, better park maintenance and upkeep, and lower tax assessments. The city is also concerned that Valley-Wide is over-taxing Menifee residents and that the services the residents receive are not worth the taxes that they are paying.

With those concerns in mind, in 2017, the city asked the Riverside County LAFCO to transfer control of the Valley-Wide-run parks on the east side of I-215 to the city. LAFCO approved the application, agreeing that the city was better suited to run those parks, but imposed two conditions that the city felt were fundamentally unfair and infeasible.

One condition would require the city to conduct a confusing tax assessment election in order to lower taxes on Menifee residents for the 22 parks on the east side of the city.

The other condition would require the city to pay Valley-Wide $500,000 to no longer provide park service in Menifee. If agreed, that payment would ultimately come from taxpayers’ money, meaning more taxes. The city is opposed to overcharging eastside Menifee residents more taxes for the same level of services residents of the westside of the city receive.

The city brought suit against LAFCO to void these conditions. The court found that LAFCO was within its authority to impose what the city believes are two unfair conditions on the city in order to take over control of the 22 parks.

The city said it will continue to work to obtain control over the 22 parks that Valley-Wide currently controls within its boundaries.


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