Mello Roos: A License to Tax


On Monday, August 20, your taxes were raised and you didn’t even notice. How did this happen? On that night, the Sweetwater High School District (“SUHSD”) Board raised the Mello Roos tax that you pay on your property because, as the Superintendent of the District noted, they have the right to raise the tax whenever they see the need.

What is Mello Roos? As you may know, “Mello Roos” is a tax that you pay in addition to your normal property taxes. Not all properties have this special tax but if your property tax is pretty high, Mello Roos is probably to blame. If you are curious as to how much you pay go to the San Diego County Treasurer Tax Collector website, enter your address, click on “begin search,” then click on “View Detail.” So why do we have this special tax?

A Prop 13 Workaround: In 1978, the famous Proposition 13 was passed limiting the ability of public entities to increase property taxes. This severely constricted the ability of public agencies to raise revenue for things like schools, parks, fire stations, etc. So, four years later, a method to go around the new law was devised: The “Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act.” The logic behind this tax generator was that new housing areas would need new schools, parks, fire stations, etc. so a tax could be levied just on the properties in that new area. However, the tax was not meant to be forever.

The 20-year Myth: many people believe that Mello Roos is a 20 year tax but, as people who have had their homes for more than 20 years know, the Mello Roos tax is still in their tax bill. How is that possible? The base tax will continue until the original bond has been paid off. This is from 20 to 40 years. It’s also because agencies, like SUHSD, continue to to raise the tax as they see fit.

What is the Tax Paying? In theory, the tax was meant to pay for infrastructure like new school buildings, sewers, or roads. But, as was found out at a recent SUHSD board meeting, the Board used Mello Roos money to pay for iPads. The rationalization was that Mello Roos can be used for “technology” purposes.

What Can You Do: Not much. You elect the members of the Board of Trustees, and they in turn, hire the Superintendent. That is who decides when and how much to raise your taxes. You can attend Board meetings and voice your disproval. However, if you attend these Board meetings, you will see a complete disregard for public opinion. There was supposed to be a public dialogue between the community and the superintendent but the superintendent canceled the day it was supposed to occur. A new meeting is being planned.

Bottom Line The District should answer these two basic questions:

– what are the Mello Roos funds being used for?
– was the Mello Roos tax raised this year and why?

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8 Responses to Mello Roos: A License to Tax

  1. There has been discussion of holding a public forum to talk about Mello-Roos funds and the Intra-district Transfer policy.

    However, notices of a meeting at Eastlake High School on Thursday, Aug. 30 are premature. Such a meeting with Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand has yet to be confirmed. Meeting arrangements are still being determined.

    As we continue to work on scheduling a meeting, we will also work on providing information to the public on the matters of concern.

    Once a meeting has been confirmed with the Superintendent, we look forward to working with the community on getting the word out.

  2. Unfortunately Superintendent Ed Brand felt the agenda and format of this community meeting had not been finalized, so he decided not to move forward with the meeting this Thursday August 30th at 7pm. We disagree and feel we should have moved forward with our meeting. Irregardless, he has committed to meeting with our community in mid September to discuss our concerns of open boundaries and how our mello roos funds are being spent by the district.

    Stay tuned as once we finalize a format, agenda, date, time and location we will let you know.

    We will still be moving forward with a community meeting tonight at 7PM – the location has been changed to the Food Court at Otay Ranch Town Center. Please join us in the discussion – and listen to fello community members providing us with the true story and the impacts they are feeling in community schools because of decisions being made on the school board / district.

    More information can also be found at:

    Please join us and follow the conversation!

    • eastlaker says:

      Ed Brand is apparently not interested in meeting with people who are unhappy with his “leadership”–so he has cancelled all meetings, so it has been reported. He is a coward! He likes to play with other people’s money, but doesn’t like to answer to these same other people. Ed Brand is trying to play ‘keep away’ at the moment–does anyone remember that schoolyard game? It works if you are faster than the other kids. But Ed is continuing the game indoors, hiding in the administration building behind the desks of clerks and secretaries. What can I say, he is a class act all the way…

  3. Pat Russiano says:

    On everytax bill, and in fact at the site that you have given, all special assessements have a phone number that you can call. They will tell you when the assessment if paid off. For a property that I represent the buyer, I called the phone number for (Sweetwater Hi CFD#3), the fee is $358.02/year and is due to be paid in full after fiscal year 2015/2016, that is after 25 years (fee began in August 1990). These fees can be adjusted up to 2% a year, just as your property tax can. Everyone must read the fine print on any matter before statements are bantered about as “truths”. Realtors are not misleading everyone, some folks (no matter their title) may make statements that they are repeating, or think is the truth etc. How the funds are spent may be another matter completely. It is just not responsible to blame an entire group of people (Realtors in this case) as misleading the public when the facts you are putting forth are not completely correct themselves. Call all the numbers on your tax bill, get the information there, they have the facts of when these special assessements (Mello Roos or CFD) are paid in full.

    • That is good information. There are links in the blog post to show that some (not all) Realtors give out simplistic answers and further the myth of the “20 year Mello Roos.” However, we depend on professionals, like Realtors, to point out these details and be correct. Don’t forget that Sweetwater High is just one CFD and Chula Vista Elementary is another one.

      • Pat Russiano says:

        Of course I have not forgotten – there are many different types of assessments. There is a phone number for every CFD, Mello Roos fee and all other special assessments at that site AND they answer the phone with answers to your questions. There are professionals in all industries. It is simplistic and unfair to state that ” **** ” give answers that “further the myth” as if that is what a Realtor’s plan is to do. Be informative, not inflammatory. Tell folks where they can go to get the correct information – that is exactly what a professional Realtor or any other professional would do.

      • Fair enough. Post updated and let’s hope the myth can be eliminated in the future.

  4. Pingback: Happy Mello Roos Day! | Focus on Chula Vista!

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