Orinda badly needs new tax revenue to repair and maintain its roads and other elements of its deteriorating infrastructure. For this web site to recommend rejection of the first road tax to be proposed since Measure E was narrowly defeated 5 years ago does not come easily. If Measure L had been proposed with "no strings attached" (the Ten Year Road and Drainage and Repairs Plan), it might have been acceptable as "a good first step" as some have portrayed it. But that is not the case. If Measure L is passed, those who created the Ten Year Plan will accept passage as a mandate and nothing more will be done for another five to ten years. Orinda cannot wait that long to start reclaiming its infrastructure.
Measure L, in itself, is not the problem. The problem is that it is the first, and last,and only leg of a three-legged Ten Year Plan that has any chance of passing. Believing that the other two legs, accounting for 85% of The Plan's revenue, will ever be voted into existence is magical thinking. They will never be accepted by the voters. Voting for Measure L will leave Orinda with a huge continuing infrastructure problem until a new plan is devised.
As the Ten Year Plan itself details on the City's web site, the total revenue projected for the revenue plan over 12 years is $58.4 million. The Plan also states that we have $52 million in deferred maintenance, stated in 2011 dollars, and that cost will increase at 2.2% per year. In addition, according to a report the City recieved recently, the City needs to spend $2.5 million per year just to maintain the road network in the condition it is currently in (page viii of the report).
Combining these facts, based on the data provided in the plan document and the fact that we need $2.5 million for maintenance, at the end of the 12 year period in which The Plan claims all of Orinda's roads will be brought up to reasonable standards, "the numbers" show that the City will still have $40 million of deferred maintenance and no means to pay for it.
Secondly, the projected revenues in the year following the end of The Plan (2025) are $1,033,000 in funds from the city budget and $723,000 in sales tax receipts (assuming an extension of the sales tax past year 10). The total is $1,755,000 This is $1,350,000 short of the $3,100,000 annual maintenance projected to be required at that time. This means that another tax, costing approximately $200 per parcel, would be required to maintain the system.
Finally, according to the Sub Committee report, if we only repair our roads to an "average" of a 70 PCI, after the plan is "complete", 12.4 percent of our roads, 11.5 miles, will still be in Poor to Very Poor condition. One of the reasons Measure's Q and E did not pass in 2006 and 2007 was that there was not enough to do the whole job. This is the same problem the Ten Year Plan has.
The Ten Year Plan which the Council says will solve Orinda's road problems, and which the passage of Measure L will tell the Council that the voters agree with this claim, simply will not work even if all element of The Plan are accepted over time by the voters.
On its own merit Measure L, the 1/2 cent sales tax, could pass. It would take a simple majority and the January survey found that 61% supported it. If this money is dedicated strictly to residential street repair, as some are suggesting and which the CIOC has indicted it will support, what relief will it offer?
Over its ten year life this tax is projected to generate $6.7 million dollars. This is only enough to repair 9 miles of the residential streets which are in the worst condition and that assumes that no under-road drainage is required. 10 percent of Orinda's population live on and mainly use those streets. At the same time, however, The system is decaying further and construction costs for the entire deficit are increasing at over $1 million per year. Having the Measure L funds are better than not having them, but they are simply not a long term solution.
The majority of funding will come later but these proposed bonds will not pass
In 2006 and 2007, two $60 million general obligation bonds almost passed with 64 percent of the vote. So why won't two $20 million bonds pass ten years later (with inflation making a $60 million dollars in 2006 worth $80 million in 2016)?
One of the main reason is that Orinda is a victim of its own success. In 2006 virtually all the roads in Orinda were in miserable condition. The people who lived on the priority roads were driving on miserable roads. The people who lived on private roads might have had nice roads but they fed into miserable roads. And the people on Orinda's 60 miles of residential streets really suffered. People were inspired. Now, with the vast majority of the 29 miles of priority roads repaired and even more expected to be repaired by 2016, only the 50% of those living on the poor and failed 45 miles of residential streets continue to suffer.
The other reason is that the funding mechanism to pay for the bonds in 2006 and 2007 was an ad valorem tax rate increase, not a parcel tax and a little "smoke and mirrors" was used to make that tax appear incredibly inexpensive. As the Facts sheet on this web site shows, a $20 million bond will cost the average property owner $180 per year for 30 years. The $60 million financing in 2006/2007 was sold as costing the average property owner $20 per $100,000 of assessed value and the average home was assessed at $500,000 in 2006. That was $100 for the first year for $60 million of financing.
How could this be, for a $60 million bond? First, the bond was to be borrowed in stages, just like the $40 million in the current plan is to be borrowed in stages. So by year ten the "rate" would increase to $55 per $100,000. This would equate to over $300 per household including increases in assessed value but this fact was never publicized nor was the city legally required to make this disclosure. Equally importantly, however, it was assumed that the 6% annual increase in the tax base, due to ever increasing values of newly sold homes, would continue and this increasing tax base would replace the need for an ever increasing tax rate. The new buyers would end up paying most of the tax.
Now that people better understand the huge disparity between assessed values in the town, those with high assessed values would insist on a parcel tax and not a tax based on assessed values. Betting on inflated home prices to pay for future liabilities is not an option with a parcel tax.
Is there anything else to back up the assertion that a sales tax followed by two bond / parcel tax measues will not pass? Yes. The Orinda survey. While 61% will support a 1/2 cent sales tax, only 46% will support a $200 parcel tax. And only 26% would support paying $600 per year (these are probably the people living on the 25 miles of failed roads). Interpolating to the total $460 cost for the sales tax plus both bond measures, only about 35% of the voters would support this $460 annual tax. This is about half of the two thirds majority needed to pass the bond measures. Even the first bond measure, with its $180 cost put on top of the $100 cost for the sales tax, could probably not gain a 50% majority, much less a two thirds.
Last year Lafayette could not pass an $89 parcel tax with a ten year life much less two seperate $180 per year parcel taxes for 30 years plus a $100 sales tax which does not even provide enough funds to maintain the roads we have.