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Financing bonds to bring savings on property tax bills

SAN MARCOS — Homeowners in several San Marcos neighborhoods are going to see savings on their future property tax bills, as the City Council unanimously approved refinancing bonds for the community facilities districts in those communities.

The Council voted 3-0 to approve the refinancing for the bonds in special tax districts encompassing the Twin Oaks Valley Ranch neighborhood and several communities in the northern edge of San Elijo Hills. Council member Chris Orlando and Mayor Jim Desmond recused themselves because they live in or near the areas affected by the vote.

“Anytime we can save public money we like to make sure that happens,” Vice Mayor Rebecca Jenkins said.

Community facilities districts are taxing districts set up to pay for public improvements and services, such as new schools and community parks. Homeowners within the district pay a special property tax commonly known as a Mello-Roos tax, which is not subject to the rules of traditional property taxes governed by Proposition 13, California’s landmark property tax-limiting constitutional amendment.

City finance staff said by refinancing now they can take advantage of interest rates more than a percent lower than the current 5 percent rate they are paying on the $38.5 million in bonds. This would result in an $8 million savings over the 30-year life of the debt, in current dollars.

For about 1,500 residents in San Elijo Hills, and about 215 homes and the Twin Oaks Valley Golf Course in the Twin Oaks Ranch community, the savings could be anywhere between $200 to $300 a year on their tax bills, which range from $1,100 to $4,600 for the areas affected, and $5,300 in savings fo the golf course, city staff said.

While the news was well received by the council and community members in the audience, a couple of speakers criticized the city for not holding a public hearing on the topic. It was originally on the consent calendar, which requires no discussion and a simple “yes” or “no” vote by the council.

“It is a good time to refinance, interest rates are low, and we appreciate it,” said John Signorino, a Questhaven resident who recently spearheaded opposition to the city’s recently revised wireless tower ordinance. “However, I do think this should hav come forward in a public meeting prior to this … I’m just trying to make sure we get honest and open government, but this looks to be a good deal.”