Letter to the Editor: The true cost of Proposition 1

Dear Editor:

Thank goodness MLTNEWS.com is not just an advertising medium, because citizen opponents don’t have the bankroll to pay for banner ads like the well-connected proponents do. In their current ad, one of their supposedly exploded myths concerns the cost of this Bond to a typical household.

Where’s the myth? What opponents of Prop 1 are making note of to voters is the many numbers the city has been using as the “typical household value.” We haven’t used three different numbers in less than a year; they did.  If that confuses any one, how are we responsible?

We also did not construct their Levy Spreadsheet. What that Spreadsheet should do is exactly what their most recent explanation erroneously claims it does. But, if the proof of their assertions are buried there somewhere, they should explain them to us rather than insisting we take their word for it. If you study their spreadsheet you won’t find any confirmation of their $122 average, let alone a decrease from the initial $164 annual tax increase.

It is correct that as new development happens, every thing else equal, each home’s tax liability for this bond should go down. But look more closely at the future their mathematical model describes and you’ll find that not everything else is equal. In this future, we already know from the presumptions in their rent vs. ownership graph that the underlying economy and, with it, all other city costs of operation will be rising from 3%-3.5% every year.

Their model shows the total assessed value of MLT going up by barely 1.5% per year except for every fifth year. In that fifth year, “some economic revitalization” of 5% occurs. Combining these two, over the life of the bond, the overall growth in assessed value is less than 2.4% per year. In their model, not ours, the cost of all other city operations will grow faster than our combined assessed value’s capacity to pay for them.

Every household will have an increased tax bill because “some economic revitalization” resulting in a 2.4% growth in assessed value will be unable to keep pace with the costs of our city government in general. The growth promised by their revitalization argument is insufficient to grow the tax base enough to counter the city’s rising cost structure.  As a result, each household’s portion of the levy cost can not go down.  At the same time every household’s responsibility to pay for other government costs will be going up. Taking more money from one pocket, while not from another still leaves taxpayers on the hook for more money.

What is most fascinating about this result is how closely it mirrors the quandary we faced long before the Town Center Plan once again promised the elixir of economic growth. Previous councils and maybe this one recognized that our primarily residential tax base couldn’t afford the ever-increasing costs of government operations. Therefore, we needed more economic development, aka growth.  And thus was born the Town Center Plan. But like similar initiatives from the 1980s impacting other areas of town, the primary output has been and will continue to be more multi-family housing. This is a development type which, as many councils have long acknowledged, costs more in increased city services than it pays for.

This long-established circular reasoning and the resulting increased cost of city government to homeowners remains an unmentioned after thought, except in their Levy Spreadsheet. As long as it provides a smokescreen from behind which they get their Taj Mahal, no one at city hall much cares.

Leonard French


    1. Do better research Nicole. Many other letters dispute Leonard and the opponents to Prop 1. Leonard has nothing good to say about Prop 1, no matter the cost. Even if Prop 1 was about only the most basic city hall (no library, no community center, no police station), he (and many opponents to Prop 1) would still say it is too much.

  1. The first time this thing went to voting I was skeptical about the numbers and the final cost and I voted NO. The second time I asked to be provided with final numbers for the project and I never got it, just more pictures about what they expect this to be but no real justification for the cost or accountability based on real numbers, I voted NO for the second time. This is the third time this people try to shove this down our throats and now I’m absolutely 100% certain I am voting NO! Enough is enough.
    I suggest you present a reasonable estimate for a city hall as that is what we need. Hey, maybe you could ask the planners from Lake Forest to give you a hint or two! Until then I’m voting NO…again.

  2. Hopefully this isn’t your only source, Nicole. What Leonard isn’t saying is that the cost to taxpayers is going to go up one way or another, because if this doesn’t pass then the city will need to obtain funding to pay rent to someone else for facilities, and then obtain more funding for police department and library repairs a few years down the road. Eventually money will need to be spent, so it’s a matter of timing, investing in a property vs renting, and what amenities citizens of MLT want in the community. The city hall proposition is no where near the “Taj Mahal” that the No campaign want people to believe, and our property taxes will stlil be incredibly low compared to neighboring communities.

  3. I’m not saying that the cost of government is not going to continue upwards. In fact, I’m conceding the city’s point that their basic costs will continue to rise at 3-3.5%. Mybe Mr. Allen care about the dollar cost differences of the many potential scenarios which could unfold with the failure of Prop 1.

    To reiterate, the city needs money for a city hall whether it is rented or owned. Money for a city hall is not the same as money for a civic center. (They also need to find money to repay the loan for the 5-years rent they are now paying, but Mr. Allen doesn’t mention that.)

    The question isn’t whether money “will need to be spent eventually”; the question is how much.

  4. Do better research???? I have challenged the prponents numerous times to present an actual numerically, factually based defense of their numbers. What I get instead are responses which refer to everything else but the numbers the city has used to persuade citizens.

    For Mr. Holt’s benefir, I have had little good to say about Prop 1 specifically because of the cost and the distortions used by proponents to defend it.

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