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Full disclosure sticker for new home buyers

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POSTED April 8, 2009 4:34 a.m.
Transparency is now all the rage at all levels of government.

It is easy to understand why. The well is going dry in terms of options on how many ways are left to skin a taxpayer.

It’s about time transparency is more than mere lip service although a lot of folks in government still have one heck of a ways to go before they are crystal clear about what they are doing with our money.

One way they can accomplish more transparency is for government – starting with the City of Manteca – to require all new homes sold within the city limits have an itemized sticker similar to those you find on new cars.

The fees that should be listed with their actual cost for that particular home – provided at the time an offer is made and again glued to a window just like on a car so the buyer is reminded again of what is driving up the cost of their home – include:

•School mitigation fees based on square footage.

•Sewer connection fee.

•Water connection fee.

•Public facilities improvement plan fees for major roads as well as water and sewer trunk lines.

•Community park fees.

•Bonus bucks.

•Public safety endowment fee (if it applies).

•Agricultural preservation fee.

•Fire facilities and equipment fee.

•Government facilities fee.

•Neighborhood park development cost pro-rated to each home in the subdivision.

•Landscape maintenance district annual fee and if it includes park maintenance.

•Property’s share of the initial year of ownership of the Measure M school bond.

•First full year of property tax and exactly where the money goes by specific jurisdiction and dollar amount.

•San Joaquin Valley Regional Air Quality mitigation fee (it’s coming).

•The first full-year’s Mello-Roos and that it continues for 30 years.

•Any special district assessments or taxes.

•The home’s pro-rated share of the actual subdivision improvements (listed individually with corresponding dollar amounts) not directly tied to the actual cost of building their home including sound walls, streets, in-project lines for storm drains as well as water and sewer, and street lights.

Yes, some of these are disclosed in the process of buying but it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. There needs to be one clear page of what was collapsed into the cost of the home’s price by the developer. They are mandatory fees imposed by the city and school districts as well as the “actual cost” of the government letting you own a home. Listing all annual taxes and assessments is much like listing the annual cost of operating a car on a new vehicle sticker.

Disclosure should be simple and clear.

Government-types shouldn’t view this as a threat. Every one of the expenses is justified for some purpose and replaces general taxes of yesteryear for providing everything from parks to government facilities.

It should make people more aware of the price of government and the amenities and services they want, use, or demand.

It also makes government more accountable. If people realize they paid in to a community park fund yet no community park improvements have been made after five years in their house, they have the information needed to demand accountability from elected leaders why that is the case.

They can also see some fees that aren’t of the city’s doing such as agricultural preservation fees designed to preserve open space and farmland.

This is not just about trying to make sure that people going into buying a home with eyes wide open. It is a way to help them get a better understanding that government – and services cost money. It also will punch a hole a mile wide in the myth that their property tax supports city services. That’s far from the case today thanks to the way the state has hijacked local revenues over the past decade.
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