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Orange County

Tax Hike Helps City Keep Its Good Looks

Government: Irvine landowners approve a doubling of parcel levy for parks, street lights and landscaping.

April 18, 2002|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irvine property owners agreed to double a special tax that keeps the parks pretty, streets well-lighted and the city's well-manicured look intact.

The parcel tax, approved initially in 1997, received 56% of the vote.

The average Irvine property owner will pay an extra $35 a year to keep the town well-groomed. The tax will generate $3.2 million a year, or roughly half the amount needed to keep Irvine's city parks in good shape and its streets lighted.

Mayor Larry Agran said the tax increase was crucial to the city's image.

"If this failed, it would have sent a signal that we are prepared to allow our standards to slip dramatically," Agran said. "In Irvine, we take great pride in the fact that we have the best lighting, the best landscaping and the best parks around."

Ballots were mailed to about 60,000 landowners, but fewer than 40% were returned. The Irvine Co., the city's largest landowner, accounted for 18.5% of the ballots cast, which city consultants finished counting Tuesday.

City Councilman Greg Smith, an opponent of the parcel tax, wondered about the timing of the vote.

"In a down economy, when people are hurting, this is the wrong time to raise taxes," he said. "I think this money will probably be going more to pet projects than for keeping the parks nice."

Some residents who opposed the tax argued that the assessment, which shows up on property tax bills, is a form of double taxation because they pay property taxes for such maintenance.

Also, almost two-thirds of Irvine residents pay fees to homeowner associations to cover similar maintenance expenses within their neighborhoods.

But Agran argued that rising energy costs and growth in the city have driven up the cost of keeping Irvine pretty.

"Irvine has always set the highest standards with their city's landscaping and lighting," he said. "The voters have simply decided to sustain it."

The parcel tax measure also calls for a $100,000 gift to the financially strapped Irvine Unified School District.

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