A press statement issued by the Capistrano Unified School District dated Aug. 21 touts: “Continuing its commitment to financial stewardship…,” and, “The District has made an active effort to reduce taxes in recent years…” regarding Mello-Roos bond refinance savings for property owners residing in Community Facilities Districts.
No surprise, CUSD is taking credit for what others started. Mello-Roos taxpayers in Talega, Mission Viejo and Ladera Ranch had to organize and stand up to CUSD in order to get the tax savings from bond refinancing and the tax relief CUSD is now touting. I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.
In the case of the Talega CFDs (90-2/IA 2002-1), the Talega Residents for Fair Taxation citizens group uncovered numerous discrepancies in late 2013—of these, the most significant was a deluge of over-taxation by CUSD totaling $2.3 million annually. Though Talega taxpayers appreciate the CUSD Board of Trustees doing the right thing in January 2014 by reversing its prior 2013 vote to keep Talega’s refinance savings of $17.4 million and lowering our bond coverage ratio from 146.21 percent to 110 percent, the board voted to resolve these issues only after our citizens group pored over thousands of documents and presented our findings at board meetings for 10 months.
Despite CUSD hiring attorneys and consultants to fight us, the taxpayers were able to hold the school board accountable and remedy the major issues that plagued Talega’s CFDs. Talega taxpayers will pay on average $17,000 less per household in Mello-Roos over the life of the bonds thanks to this community involvement. We remain engaged to ensure CUSD practices responsible spending and follows the law regarding the collection and spending of Talega Mello-Roos taxes.
As for the Mission Viejo/Aliso Viejo CFD (87-1), the CUSD press release states, “In 2014, the Board voted to prepay bonds early for the cities of Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo, saving these communities over $40 million.”
What CUSD fails to mention is that a small group of taxpayers in Mission Viejo volunteered time, energy and expertise over a decade to stop the abusive practices and misspending of their Mello-Roos by CUSD and sought an end date for their CFD. Their CFD would have went on in perpetuity if it were not for these dedicated taxpayers. The taxpayers in the Ladera Ranch CFD (98-2) also continue to advocate for fair treatment with regards to their Mello-Roos surplus taxes and seek to remedy the severe over-crowding of their Ladera Ranch schools resulting from non-Mello-Roos taxpayers falsifying home addresses just so their children could attend these schools. Only due to mounting pressure by these taxpayers did CUSD agree to check residency of all students at Ladera Ranch schools.
Though Pacifica San Juan CFD (98-1A) is not mentioned in CUSD’s press release, taxpayers here formed Pacifica San Juan Residents for Fair Taxation to resolve issues with their CFD. Due to their community efforts and involvement, their property owners saw tax savings from 2010 to 2015 in the amount of $19,600 per household in Mello-Roos.