Shocked by big tax bills: ‘If it had been disclosed, we wouldn’t have bought here’
Homeowners of the KB Home development in south Madera packed City Hall Wednesday night to complain about what they said were property tax statements that were complete surprises. (Charles Doud/The Madera Tribune)
Homeowners in the KB Home development between Road 28 and Knox Road, adjacent to State Route 99 in the city’s south end, are up in arms about steep bills they’ve suddenly received for taxes they were unaware they’d have to pay.
The taxes are the result of a community funding district election that was held while the homes were still under construction prior to 2008.
Ron and Renae Montoya, who have owned their house in the KB Home development since 2012, were stunned in June when they opened their property tax bill and saw their mortgage payment had gone up some $500 a month due to the community funding district, or as it often is called, a Mello-Roos District.
“That was the first time we were aware we were in a Mello-Roos District,” said Ron Montoya, a resident of the KB Home development.
The Montoyas talked to some of their neighbors and found that many had received such bills, and that none of them had any idea such a tax was due.
All these neighbors are in agreement about several things.
None of them received a disclosure, on purchasing their homes, that such a tax could be levied on them. The Realtor who sold the homes claims to have known nothing about it. The title company claimed to know nothing about it. “We weren’t disclosed of anything,” said Montoya. “And if it had been disclosed, we wouldn’t have bought here. It’s ridiculous.”
There is no evidence that funding from a community facilities district was used for anything special in the 300-home development. A small, modest park in the only amenity in the neighborhood. “The park is maintained by the city,” Montoya said. “But it wasn’t really maintained until we had a Neighborhood Watch meeting in 2014 and the mayor was there. After that, the park started to be better maintained.”
The park boasts no swimming pool, no tennis court, no clubhouse,” Montoya said. “There isn’t even a speed-limit sign on Knox,” said Montoya. “There’s no gate, there’s nothing that would justify this kind of extra expense.
Montoya said he is familiar with planned unit developments, where assessments are charged to build and maintain amenities such as tennis courts, parks and community swimming pools, but the KB community he and his neighbors occupy is nothing like that.
The Community Facilities Act (more commonly known as Mello-Roos) was a law enacted by the California State Legislature in 1982. The name Mello-Roos is derived from its co-authors, Sen. Henry J. Mello (D-Watsonville) and Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles).
According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the act enables “Community Facilities Districts” (CFDs) to be established by local governments in California as a means of obtaining additional public funding. Counties, cities, special districts, joint powers authority, and schools districts in California use these financing districts to pay for public works and some public services.
The KB Home neighbors took their complaints to the Madera City Council on Wednesday night, and the council and City Administrator David Tooley pledged to get as much information for them as they could.
The result is that a meeting will be held Tuesday night between the neighbors and the administrator of the Mello-Roos district so the residents can determine what kind of obligations they have other than what was disclosed to them.
They also have an attorney working on the case to try to determine whose obligation it was to disclose the existence of the tax when they bought their homes and why no disclosure was made.