Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Broke California City to Have a Really Nice Park

Any crisis of failed government as monumental as California's budget disaster is bound to have its moments of dark humor. One such moment is playing out now in the Contra Costa County city of Antioch.

As reported in the Contra Costa Times today, Antioch has fallen on hard times: its general fund swooned from $47 million to $35 million over the past year as its tax base collapsed, and after three years of staffing and service cuts it's still facing a shortfall of almost $2 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. So, you'd think they'd be thrilled to have identified $1.7 million in a special tax fund called Mello-Roos. But here's the rub: Mello-Roos funds can only be used for construction efforts at Antioch's Prewett Family Community Park.

Back in 1982, the Legislature established the Mello-Roos tax to fund public improvements; in 1989, Antioch created a special district to use its Mello-Roos dollars to construct eight schools and the park. Currently, the district has over 11,000 homeowners who pay between $650 and $1,500 every year. Originally, the Mello-Roos district was supposed to spend $50 million on Prewett Park, including "a water park, hiking trails, [a] burrowing owl habitat and [a] community center, which opened in January. The center features a library annex and technology center, [a] police substation, [a] gymnasium and an outdoor amphitheater". As far as what might happen with the $1.7 million, district board members have suggested turf fields at the park, expanding the library annex, improving the swimming pool, installing an electronic billboard at the park's entrance, and walkway and landscaping improvements. All of which will surely be very comforting to the City Council if Antioch has to declare bankruptcy.


Post a Comment