Countywide : Obscure Law May Help Create Freeway District

An obscure law used in 1943 to create the Golden Gate Bridge District would be used to establish a unique county freeway authority under a plan adopted Monday by the Orange County Transportation Commission.

Earlier this month the commission voted to pursue creation of such an authority to help finance freeway-widening projects. At that time, commission members envisioned a November, 1986, countywide ballot measure on the issue.

But, citing the need for more time to properly present the issue to voters and a desire to avoid special legislation in Sacramento, the commission decided Monday to submit the plan to various county agencies, which would hold public hearings on the issue and then seek voter approval, probably in June or November, 1987.

The key panel to hold public hearings would be the county's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which has authority over creation of special districts that are used to raise money for a wide range of services, such as sanitation and street lighting. LAFCO eventually would draft a ballot measure.

The freeway authority would divert about $25 million from anticipated increases in county property tax revenues from existing service districts, including school districts, to freeway projects. Most school districts would lose about $300,000 to $400,000, but a large district might lose as much as $1 million, according to OCTC Executive Director Stan Oftelie. He said school districts have been able to make up such revenue reductions by obtaining more money from the state.

In searching for a way to accomplish this tax diversion without special legislation, county officials and OCTC counsel Clayton H. Parker said they discovered the old California Bridge and Highway Act.

In a July 18 letter to Oftelie, Parker said this was the law that permitted the revenue-raising district that financed the Golden Gate Bridge--which "most probably is the only agency in the state that has utilized the act."

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