The catch is that the tax would be extended to the year 2020, instead of ending in 2017 as currently planned. As a result, the average homeowner would end up paying an extra $4,300 in Mello-Roos taxes if they remain in their home through 2020.
To provide funding for the civic center or provide immediate tax relief, Peter Miller, the district's financial advisor, presented several taxation scenarios for the board's consideration at its Nov. 5 meeting. The board did not comment or take action on any of the following options.
Base Scenario: the current plan to pay the tax at the maximum level per year and pay it off in 2017. This provides $26 million, which is not enough to pay for the planned $45 million, 68,000-square-foot civic center building. As a result, the building would need to be scaled back or phased in if alternate funding is not found.
Scenario 1: Pay the tax at the maximum level though 2019. This would provide the extra $19 million to fund the $45 million building containing a library, community center and police substation. This option could cost taxpayers an extra $4,500 if they stay in their homes until 2019.
Scenario 2: Pay the tax at the maximum level through 2010, then reduce it by nearly a third beginning in 2011 until the tax ends in 2025. This will provide the $45 million for the civic center, but cost taxpayers an extra $5,100 if they stay in their homes until 2025.
Scenario 3: The option outlined in the first paragraph, where the tax would decrease 8 percent (about $100 per home) beginning next year and end in 2020. This provides the $45 million for the civic center building, but it would cost Mello-Roos residents an additional $4,300 on average if they stay in their homes through 2020.
Scenario 4: Reduce the tax by nearly one-third beginning next year and end it in 2025. This provides immediate tax relief, but does not provide extra revenue for a $45 million building. It will cost residents an additional $3,900 if they remain in their homes until 2025.
The Mello-Roos bonds were originally scheduled to be paid off in 2025. But due to refinancing at lower interest rates, the payoff date has been moved up to 2017.
At one point it was estimated the bonds would be paid off in 2015, but the significant slowdown in the housing market has not brought in as many Mello-Roos taxpayers as predicted.
An average of more than 500 homes were being built every year from 1989 through 2003 - and more than 1,000 homes were built in the year 2001 alone. Since then the average has dropped to 165 homes per year. The current estimate is that only 25 homes will be built each year in the district from now through 2026.
There are currently 11,365 taxable parcels in the district.
Although Mello-Roos Board members did not comment on the various tax scenarios, several residents told the board it should not be considering any tax extension options to pay for the $45 million civic center complex.
"What you are doing is contrary to what the Mello-Roos District was formed for and what the requirements are," said former Mello-Roos Board member Ralph Hernandez. "At full buildout (the plans) never included a police substation. Any excess funds are supposed to go back to those who paid in to the Mello-Roos District. You are not supposed to use the excess funds for new pet projects."
Norma Hernandez pointed out that southeast Antioch is one of the leading areas in the state for home foreclosures.
"So when we talk about adding more debt to a failing district we might push the whole district under," she said. "Why would we think at this time to put more bond debt on people who are using their homes and also make it more difficult to sell their homes?
"People do not want to have more debt and have to tell a prospective buyer that you're going to extend the Mello-Roos more years than they know about. The houses that sell are the ones that do not have the assessment debt the way that Antioch has put it on these houses. Anybody who would put additional bond debt in this climate would have to be absolutely out of their mind, knowing what's going on in California."
Terry Ramus, a Mello-Roos resident who has spoken out on numerous occasions against the tax extension, took exception to the word "savings" on one of Miller's charts in which the various scenario tax costs were compared.
"Any time that the Mello-Roos District is spending $20 million more on Prewett, that's not any kind of savings," said Ramus. "You can have comparative additional costs.
"The $45 million (for the civic center) is an arbitrary number. Where did that come from? Let's do $100 million. If you take $5 million per year in excess tax revenue, that means the district will go to 2038. That means you can collect the maximum excess revenue to 2038. We could have a dome, we could have gold leaf, we could do this up right. Why doesn't it keep going? Why not 10 years later keep asking people for more and more and more?"
Ramus' sarcastic remarks were greeted with applause from the many Mello-Roos residents in attendance, as were the remarks from Don Williams, who began by saying, "I'm a Mello-Roos taxpayer, and I'm fed up. I have lived here 11 years. At the time I moved in I was a little healthier and working. I said, 'I can make enough money to pay that tax with no problem.'
"But things change. I'm the oldest person here. And I'm tapped out. And the idea that anybody in their right mind would come up with the idea to extend this (tax) burns me to no end. (The City Council) is the most ridiculous bunch of people I have run into in a long time. I'm a retired steel worker. I'm going to get active in this next election."
Councilman Reggie Moore, who also sits on the Mello-Roos Board, took exception to the hostility aimed at the board, arguing that he and others on the board have attempted to do the right thing by getting residents' input on the issue.
"This board could have acted months ago to enact this tax," said Moore. "But this board chose to have transparency in this process. This board chose to slow things down and engage the people we are here to represent. We wanted permission from those who pay the tax to build these facilities. Let's keep it respectful this evening."