The City Council has set into motion a road improvement program that would repair substandard streets but would cost homeowners as much as $90 a year in added property taxes.
Of the city's 120 miles of streets, half are substandard, Councilman Steve Apodaca said. The plan approved by the council Wednesday would spend $4.3 million a year for roadwork, starting with the streets that are in the worst shape. Of that amount, residents would chip in $1.5 million--between $18 and $90 a year per household.
Several people spoke against the plan, saying that the city should pay for improvements from its general fund.
"The city had the money in the past to upgrade these streets, but they didn't use it," said Karoline Koester, a former mayor of San Clemente. "We feel we're having this crammed down our throats."
But council members said that recent budget cuts have already depleted the fund.
The council's plan would levy the tax at a higher rate for houses on public streets and less for those on private roads, who typically pay homeowner association fees. Single-family homeowners living on private streets would pay about $22 a year, while those on public streets would pay $90.
The proposal also includes a cap on the new tax as well as a "sunset clause," which would eventually shift the burden of financing the street repairs to the general fund.
Seniors with fixed incomes would be eligible for relief under the plan. Businesses and industrial, commercial and institutional properties would be charged according to their square footage.
"It's as close to equitable as possible," Apodaca said, adding that the council has now made three attempts in three years come up with a street repair plan.
The plan now goes to public hearings, set for June 7 and July 19.