Laguna Laurel bonds in final year

$20M bond approved 20 years ago to purchase wilderness area will be paid off by next August.

August 19, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,

A $20,000 million bond measure that helped pay to prevent mass construction in Laguna Canyon will be paid off this fiscal year.

The City Council set on Tuesday the tax rate for the final year of the general obligation bond measure, which Laguna's voters approved in 1990. The measure stipulated that the source of funds to repay the bonds would be a separate ad valorem property tax, which can only be imposed by a vote of the people.

"The bond measure was approved by a 79.5% vote of the people," Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman said.

Voters approved the 1990 bond measure to pay for a portion of the Laguna Laurel purchase from the Irvine Co., which planned an extensive residential and commercial development. The term was for 20 years.


The bonds were refinanced in May 2001 to obtain a lower rate of interest, which saved property owners about $14 a year.

Each year the council is legally obliged to adopt a resolution setting the tax rate that pays off the bonds, for which the public voted.

"Tonight for the last time, we will be setting the rate to pay the debt service on these bonds," City Director of Finance Gavin Curren said Tuesday.

The council approved a rate of .01187 per $100 assessed value, 14% less than for the previous fiscal year, due to the change in the annual assessed valuation and the use of all available funds within the debt service fund.

Property owners who split their property tax bill into two payments will get their last bill for the bonds in April 2011. On average, property owners will see a reduction of approximately $145 on their tax bill for fiscal year 2011-12, Curren said.

The bonds will officially be paid off Aug. 15, 2011.

Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said in light of some incorrect statements being bruited about that it was important to clarify that the council cannot raise property taxes without a vote of the people.

"We just can't do it," Pearson said.

In fact, City Manager Ken Frank said he could not think of any tax the council could raise without a vote of the people.

"That is why the half-cent sales tax to help defray the city's share of the costs of city infrastructure damaged in the 2005 Bluebird Canyon landslide and set up a disaster fund was put on the ballot," Frank said.

Property tax bills do include fees for sewer service and trash collection service, which the city does have the power to raise, after public hearings.

Legally, fees for these services are not taxes and some cities do not charge for these services, taking the costs out of property taxes, Frank said.

"But those cities still can't raise the taxes without a vote of the people," Frank said.

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