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Council votes 3-2 to slay increases in CFD assessments
• Unprecedented move made to help homeowners
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A screenshot of the Zoom Ceres City Council meeting of August 10. At top are Councilman Channce Condit, Mayor Chris Vierra, Vice Mayor Linda Ryno and City Manager Tom Westbrook. Second row down are Councilman Mike Kline, Captain Pat Crane, Finance Director Leticia Diaz and Councilman Bret Durossette. Third row: City Engineer Daniel Padilla, Fire Chief Kevin Wise, City Attorney Tom Hallinan and Police Chief Rick Collins. Bottom row: Public Works Director Jeremy Damas and Recreation Manager Matt Lohr.

The funding mechanism of Community Facilities Districts has been used in Ceres since 2002 to get new growth to finance part of the costs of police, fire and parks department services extended to new residents. Each year the Ceres City Council routinely bumps up the tax rate to keep up with inflation, not to exceed four percent annually.

Last week the Ceres City Council voted 3-2 to nix a planned 3.31 percent increase this year. Councilmen Channce Condit, Mike Kline and Vice Mayor Linda Ryno cast votes against the increase.

The move means less money for police and fire departments and parks crews when inflation is factored.

City Manager Tom Westbrook said the two districts brought in $715,000 last year. The increases would have added another $20,000, which have been factored into the budget for use in police, fire and parks. He said most cities have either a Mello-Roos or Community Facilities Districts to help finance the added demands for services within the three city departments.

Only those living in subdivisions built since 2002 pay into the districts through their property tax bills. Those in CFD #1 would have paid an extra $11 to the $312 they already pay annually; while those in CFD #2 were looking at paying an extra $27 to the $924 per year they pay.

Condit opined that he wanted no increase during these “unprecedented times with the pandemic – there’s a lot of folks out there struggling financially.” He added that “it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to consider their needs.”

However, Mayor Chris Vierra said while the extra $20,000 is “not a huge sum of money,” he noted it helps pay for the cost of living increases for emergency services personnel.

Vice Mayor Linda Ryno noted that homeowners knew they would be paying into the CFD when they purchased their home.

“It’s not like it’s a surprise to them now that they’re going to have a Mello-Roos tax,” said Ryno. 

When Condit suggested operating on the same amount as last year, Mayor Vierra noted with the higher costs of providing services, the city would “be negative to what we did last year.”

Condit’s motion was seconded by Ryno and supported by Councilman Mike Kline. Mayor Chris Vierra and Councilman Bret Durossette did not support the motion.

A Mello-Roos is a special tax assessment district created in California to finance local infrastructure or services.

The tax is applied only to residents of the district that benefits from the project.

The law permitted Mello-Roos districts was created to allow communities to raise money for local projects despite the restrictions of Proposition 13 property tax caps.