The $38 million would come from a combination of the $26 million that remains in the Mello-Roos fund along with another $12 million that had not been previously
discussed but now appears to be available.
The $12 million is comprised of $7.2 million in reimbursement money from the state to pay off Mello-Roos bonds and $4.9 million in excess revenue in the current fiscal year, according to Assistant City Manager Arlene Mornick.
"It doesn't increase anyone's taxes. It doesn't extend anyone's taxes. But the $38 million would be used to build the facilities that we desperately need," said Mayor Don Freitas, who made the suggestion to use the extra $12 million.
It was unclear, however, whether the extra $12 million could be used for the civic center complex without extending the Mello-Roos tax beyond its current payoff date in 2017.
"I can't answer that question at this time," Mornick told the council. "It may extend (the tax) one year instead of two years."
Freitas has been the chief cheerleader for building a 68,000-square-foot, $45 million hybrid building housing a library, community center and police substation in Prewett Park, located across from Deer Valley High School on Lone Tree Way. To pay for it, Freitas has advocated extending the tax for two years to make up the funding shortfall.
But Tuesday night - after numerous Mello-Roos residents once again pleaded with the council to not ask for a tax extension - Freitas declared defeat.
"Nobody wants to pay taxes and assessments," Freitas acknowledged, adding that he's about to make a $1,600 Mello-Roos payment himself. "I can see the writing on the wall. I don't think it's going to work (to ask for additional funding from Mello-Roos residents).
"One option is to take all of the remaining money and pay down existing taxes, so at the end of the day you have a weed patch that will stay a weed patch forever more. Our bills will be reduced.
"The other part is: I feel I have an obligation to take all of the available funding (the $38 million) and build as much of the facility as we possibly can. Antioch would be a better community, quality of life would be enhanced and it would be a catalyst for community involvement."
The issue concerning whether to extend the Mello-Roos tax to pay for the civic center complex has been contentious. Numerous angry Mello-Roos residents have criticized the Mello-Roos Board and the City Council for considering that option. And council members have charged that some people have been using the issue for political gain.
"This has gotten caught up in backroom Antioch politics, which has been alive and well since the '80s here," said Councilman Brian Kalinowski.
He criticized the Mello-Roos Board for not doing its job to debate the issue and come up with options to build the civic center. An informational mailer has yet to be sent out explaining the issue to Mello-Roos residents, many of whom are confused about what's going on.
"None of the work that I expected to be done has been done," said Kalinowski, adding that "99.9 percent of the people may say, 'Give us the $26 million (that's left in the budget), and we don't want to build another darn thing. Sell the (Prewett Park) property off, build another shopping center and be on your way.'
"I don't think that's the answer. But we haven't gotten that far. Because I'm hoping the Mello-Roos Board would have the debate and come up with the options that would allow us to build the project."
Councilman Reggie Moore also made the politics charge.
"We wanted to engage the Mello-Roos taxpayers in a meaningful dialogue to make a determination as to their desire in how we move forward with this project," said Moore. "But it seems as though the attempt to have that process played out is being hijacked. It's very politically motivated and very politically driven. This process does not need to be politicized. It needs to be done on the merit of the project."
Councilman Arne Simonsen, who raised the concern that the council had not previously voted for a two-year tax extension on Mello-Roos residents, a neglect that led to the council voting Tuesday night on the tax, took exception to the politics charge.
"I don't play that kind of political game," said Simonsen. "This is fundamentally about fair taxation. It's the way I feel about things. Maybe somebody else is politicizing the (issue), but it's not me."
Simonsen pointed out that the Mello-Roos tax issue has been well publicized in newspaper articles, but so far the only people who have shown up at meetings are those opposed to the tax extension.
"Where are the people here that are saying, 'Yes, we want this extended'? They are not here," said Simonsen. "If the people really wanted it, they would be here. But they are not."
When Freitas suggested asking for $38 million based on the availability of the extra $12 million in funding, Simonsen said, "I don't know that" we have that extra funding.
"I hope we are not being political," responded Freitas.
"I don't have access to that information" about the $12 million availability, said Simonsen.
"We all have access to that information," said Freitas.
After further discussion the council voted unanimously to request the $38 million, provided it does not extend the Mello-Roos tax. The issue now will go back to the Mello-Roos Board to look into and possibly vote for or against the council's $38 million request.
The next Mello-Roos Board meeting is Monday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. It's currently scheduled to be held in the Antioch Unified School District Board Room at Fifth and G streets, but board members have requested that it be held in a meeting room at Prewett Park.