At last night’s Irvine City Council meeting, Councilman Larry Agran publicly challenged a grand jury report finding that city leaders backed off on a promise not to levy new taxes.

But when he pressed city staff over whether a so-called community facilities district tax to be used to fund operations and maintenance at the park constituted a “new tax,” he didn’t get the answer he was looking for.

“I challenge any taxpayer to come forward — show me where there has been an added tax burden,” Agran said last night. “Where are you? Where is the burden?”

Agran then put the question of the community facilities district tax to city staff. He asked: “Were we imposing a new tax?”

Staff remained tight lipped. Agran, clearly frustrated, snapped his fingers and said, “Come on! Let’s go!” Finally, Assistant City Manager Sharon Landers gave a brief answer, saying the districts are usually initiated by the developers.

Agran posed the question again. “These are financing mechanisms, but they do not represent a new tax — a new tax burden … do they?”

More silence.

“Do they?”

Finally, Kurt Mowery, chief financial officer for the Great Park, answered: “It’s a special tax requested by the developer to help lower the cost of providing housing.” But before Mowery could finish, Agran cut him off.

“It’s part of the purchase price,” Agran said. “And the ongoing obligations — in the same way that all of us assume ongoing obligations.”

Mowery later said he couldn’t confirm whether the tax could be considered a new tax because he didn’t feel he had the legal authority to answer that question.

I’ll be putting call out to tax experts to explain whether a community facilities district tax qualifies as a new tax. And I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.


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