Though residents of one Victorville neighborhood will see annual fees that averaged $2,000 cut by about 75 percent, some feel they should have been given the opportunity to vote the controversial Mello-Roos fees down entirely.
Residents of the Sundance development, south of Bear Valley Road and east of Highway 395, had protested and pleaded for months with the Hesperia Unified School District over what they say are backbreaking Mello-Roos fees paid on their houses.
At the May 7 meeting, the school board voted 4-1 to give residents in Mello-Roos Community Facilities District 2004-1 a break on their fees for the next five years, dropping them to an average of $500 annually.
But it's not an entirely happy ending: Some residents believe the district acted improperly by not agreeing to let the residents vote on the fees, and let them decide whether or not to dump them.
"A group of homeowners gathered petitions for an initiative under Proposition 218," resident Marshall Kagan said. Prop. 218 gives taxpayers the right to vote for or against certain types of taxes and fees. "Our petition had more than 80 homeowner signatures, and was submitted. It included a proposed ordinance, to lower taxes to zero, for the property owners. The district reviewed it, found all signatures valid, and at the Monday night meeting certified it to the board."
Residents had hoped to shift the tax burden from homeowners — who have paid 100 percent of the fees in the eight years since CFD 2004-1 was formed — to the owners of undeveloped property in the area, and are discussing their legal options.
But instead of adopting the ordinance without alteration, the board voted to alter the ordinance, trimming back the proposed 100 percent reduction in Mello-Roos taxes down.
Mello-Roos is a 1982 law allowing builders to shift development impact costs (in this case, the impact of new residents on local schools) to tenants in the form of a special property tax.
Although the boundaries of the city of Hesperia, Hesperia Unified and the Hesperia Recreation and Park District largely overlap, there are regions of other cities and unincorporated San Bernardino County located in the school or park district.
Kagan says the homeowners are contemplating further legal action against the district.
"Our option is to file a writ of mandamus," he said. "This would be an order of the court for the board to adopt or submit to the voters our ordinance, and to repeal the bogus ordinance. We will probably do this."