This multi-media, interactive series is about a special tax Californians pay without thought or question. It amassed $200 million last year in San Diego County. There are loose spending guidelines, but it is a virtual ATM for local governments. The Mello-Roos tax -- named after the two legislators who created it -- takes a vote of one person, most often a developer, to enact. Accountability is almost nonexistent. inewsource spent a year peeling back the layers of Mello-Roos in a way that had not been done in the 30 years that the tax existed. We gathered tax data on nearly one million properties in San Diego County, mapped it and made it interactive so homeowners could participate in the quest for accountability. We pored through thousands of pages of invoices to follow the spending. We filed dozens of public records requests. Our investigation revealed mistakes in tax bills (some homeowners paying as much as $6,000 a year too much), systemic inequities and lack of oversight. Our work launched a city audit (ongoing), exposed a school district's inappropriate use of funds, and prompted that same district to launch a website for homeowners so they could verify the accuracy of their tax bills. Most importantly, the series spurred homeowners to take action, demanding answers and transparency from their elected officials.
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