The City of Orinda wants your help, and your donation is tax deductible.

There are no bake sales in the works, but Mayor Sue Severson plans to solicit donations for extras the City Council does not want to pay for out of the general fund.

Donations could pay for events such as Orinda in Action Day, or they could pay for public art such as the popular frog sculpture in the downtown fountain without draining the city's general fund, Severson said.

"Our budget is so minimal and we have very little flexibility in what we're able to do," she said.

The city's roads and drains need more than $100 million in repairs the city can't afford.

Orinda is, by many standards, an affluent city. In 2000, the annual income of the average Orinda family was $132,531, according to the U.S. Census.

But Orinda is tax-poor. Under Proposition 13 rules, Orinda gets 5.7 cents per dollar of property tax — less than do many other cities in the county. Several ballot measures to pay for infrastructure improvements have failed, and the city's roads are second worst in the Bay Area, according to a Metropolitan Transportation Commission report.

The city has always been open to accepting donations, Severson said. At a Monday meeting of the City Council, Severson won approval from the rest of the council to make more efforts to solicit the contributions and to organize fundraising events.

Councilwoman Victoria Smith dubbed it the "Friends of Orinda."

"It's just giving citizens another opportunity to be involved, to make a positive difference for good at the local level," Severson said. "I think a lot of people get overwhelmed or distressed in today's local economic environment, that everything is negative and nothing good can happen."

She wants people to recognize they can help by volunteering or making a donation, she said.

Previous campaigns for donations had focused on specific programs or events. Three years ago, $15,000 in donations helped the Orinda Police Department get a police dog. And local schools are beneficiaries of significant parental money contributions.

Cities commonly work with their chambers of commerce or other local foundations, said Eva Spiegel, communication director for the California League of Cities. And they often solicit donations for specific events.

She has not heard of any cities starting broad campaigns for donations, she said, adding that she would not necessarily have heard about it because the league's focus is on lobbying for cities.

Donations would flow into a separate Community Improvement Fund, said Orinda Financial Services Director Beverli Marshall.

A donor could make a contribution to be used only for a specific purpose, she said; otherwise, the money could be used for anything the city does, at the City Council's discretion. The money would be budgeted and audited with the other city funds.

Orinda residents can't control state or national affairs, Severson said, but she hopes some will open their checkbooks to help the city.

Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or pthissen@bayareanewsgroup.com.