In late January the City conducted a phone survey of 350 residents (described as “likely voters”) on road repair financing options. The results were encouraging, however, the survey itself had its shortcomings.

Pros

  • The good news is the almost 50% of respondents believed we should go ahead and raise enough money ($47 million) to bring all of the roads up to reasonable standards.
  • An additional 28% believed we should “take it slow” and tax a bit at a time but still end up with the full $47 million needed.
  • A total of 75% believed we should ultimately tax ourselves enough to fix everyone’s roads. Less than 50% actually live on bad roads so this means a significant percent are altruistic enough to vote for the betterment of the whole.

Cons

  • The City conducted the survey before any education (public forums or workshops) could be held on the need for funding or the funding options.
  • The City only asked respondents about only two tax options; both options to repay long term bonds for the repair of the roads.  The Finance Advisory Committee had identified five possible tax funding sources.
  • The City did not ask anything about funding the long term maintenance following the repairs. The long term maintenance cost is about equal to the repair cost. If people are not willing to pay for maintenance, should good money be put into repairs which will then deteriorate?
  • The City did not attempt to determine any demographics about the respondents. One of the two funding options, an Ad Valorem Tax, is based on the assessed value of the home. Homeowners who have recently moved to Orinda have an assessed value equal to the market value of their home. Homeowners who have lived here a long time (and might be the “likely voters” which the survey targeted), will have assessed values which are a fraction of the market value of their homes (after years of Prop 13 impacts) and therefore may think an Ad Valorem tax is a great bargain.
  • The two tax options were based on two different loan payment schedules.  A Parcel Tax of $411 per year was priced to pay off the bond in 20 level payments of $3 million per year.  The Ad Valorem Tax (based on assessed values) was designed to pay an escalating stream of payments starting at $1.9 million in the first year (60% of the Parcel Tax amount), but increasing to $5 million by year 20.  The survey only compared the first year cost.