Citizens tell city council they don’t want increased property tax to pay for road repair
By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal
By a margin of approximately 2 to 1 La Habra Heights property owners rejected a proposal that would have nearly tripled their annual taxes in order to improve and maintain the city’s roads. Ballots, that were mailed out and returned, were counted at the city council meeting last Thursday with the final tally being 657-341 against imposing the new tax.
“The people have spoken from this community,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Roy Francis. “I think it’s time for us to roll up our shirt sleeves again and come back with another realistic figure. The community let us know that this wasn’t the right fee at this time.”
The figure that the tax would have assessed was $527 annually over the next five years. Property owners have been paying $173 for a previously approved road district. That tax will end this year.
The vote on the tax increase was brought by the city council after the Roads Committee presented its recommendation. The committee, comprised of volunteers have been working with City Manager Shauna Clark on what is needed to repair many of the roads throughout the Heights.
“The roads were in terrible shape before the bond measures, but now they need a lot of maintenance and repair,” said John Smith, a paving contractor who has served on past Roads Committees.
The proposed tax caused a vocal opposition from some members in the community. A campaign was initiated, consisting of multiple mailings opposing the tax
The city mailed 2,130 ballots to residents and approximately 1017 ballots were returned. With just under 50 percent of the ballots returned, many believed that more people in the city should be voting.
Council member Brian Bergman explained that he was happy about the turnout, but believes more people should be voting. “This is an issue that is directly related to how we conduct our lives,” Bergmean explained. “If and when we ever put this through to a vote again, I would hope we get the word out. I’d like to see a 90 percent turnout on this issue.”
With the defeat of the tax and the previous district’s tax expiring this year, property owners won’t see any increased taxes for roads for at least a year. Discussion about increasing the number of members on the Roads Committee will be addressed as the committee will undoubtedly take on the task of developing a plan to offset the cost of improving and maintaining the city’s roads.
“Something will have to get done.” Smith said. “It’s just something that you can’t give up on. You just have to come up with something that will work for people and meet a majority.”