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Mission Viejans Quick to Plunge Into Cityhood : Council Hears From Citizens

November 05, 1987|MARIANN HANSEN | Times Staff Writer

Mission Viejo residents Wednesday were already bending the ears of their newly elected City Council members about speed limits and traffic problems.

The five new council members had been elected for only a few hours and won't even take office until March 31, but the citizenry was already setting the agenda.

Citizens' Focus Shifts

"This is a natural thing," said Councilwoman-elect Victoria C. Jaffe, 40, an insurance company executive. "When the control becomes local, the level of expectation rises. Now the residents have access to local leadership for local problems, such as transportation safety, public safety and waste. They will have a greater voice."

The idea of "home rule" was one of the selling points as voters decided by a margin of 57% to 43% in Tuesday's election to make Mission Viejo Orange County's 27th city.

But now that the incorporation issue is decided, the focus has shifted to the five council members who will undertake the job of creating the new city.

The transition from community to city, though time-consuming, should be smooth, they said Wednesday.

Unlike other incorporating cities that have to start from scratch, the new council members note, Mission Viejo already has a Community Services District in place. The agency, which was created by election in 1985, took more than 30% of the community's property taxes from the county and provided municipal services such as parks and recreation, street cleaning and lighting.

The contracts for those services can simply be transferred to the new city, the new council members said.

Three of the new council members serve on the CSD board of directors. Jaffe, along with Norman Murray and Chris Keena, will be working in the next five months to dissolve the CSD and transfer all the service responsibilities to the new city. They will have about $3.5 million in reserves from the district, which will be transferred to the new city budget.

Another advantage they cite is that the CSD's nine employees will become the city's first employees. Employees in a community services district must be retained by a city when it is formed, but their titles are determined by the city council. Eventually, there will be 27 employees.

"We will be able to do business right away, and that's important because there will be a lot of people watching us," said Keena, 40, an attorney, referring to those from other communities in the south county seeking incorporation, as well as to Mission Viejans who opposed incorporation.

Each new council member said a top priority would be to work within the new city's budget and avoid having to impose user fees on the 64,000 residents. According to an independent financial feasibility study, Mission Viejo's 1988-89 budget should have a $3.4-million surplus.

"We want to assure the people who voted against cityhood that we recognize their concerns. There will be no increase in taxes or fees to the city and that's the main concern I heard from the people voting against incorporation," said Norman Murray, 69, a semiretired businessman.

County to Continue Role

According to the feasibility study, Mission Viejo's 1988-89 budget will encompass $19.3 million in revenues and $15.9 million in costs, leaving $3.4 million in reserves.

"Those against cityhood thought incorporation meant an automatic tax increase, but there won't be, the city's financial feasibility study clearly shows that," said Councilman-elect William S. Craycraft, 44, a sales and marketing manager.

Craycraft and Councilman-elect Robert A. Curtis, a 32-year-old attorney, will serve four-year terms as the two top vote-getters. The other three will serve two-year terms.

Some of the council's first actions will be to select a mayor from the five council members, adopt the county ordinances as the first city ordinances and file with the state Board of Equalization to begin collecting sales and other taxes.

From March 31 to June 30, the county will continue to provide its current municipal services while the city makes arrangements to take over those services.

Under its proposal with the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, which recommends communities for incorporation to the Board of Supervisors, Mission Viejo will be a contract city, meaning it will pay the county to provide police and fire protection.

Some residents have argued that Mission Viejo is already receiving these services from the county. But the council members maintained that they will now control such services as police protection by determining how many squad cars the city can afford to put out on the streets.

"The residents will immediately realize the windfall when they recapture their own tax revenues, and we need to convince the skeptics of that in the ensuing months," Curtis said. The feasibility study estimated that if Mission Viejo had been a city in 1985-86, it would have had a $6.3 million reserve. Instead, that money was absorbed within the county.

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