Measure UUT will continue the current amount of revenue the City receives from the Utility Users Tax, and without this continued revenue, the City will not be able to maintain all of the currently provided City services. Service level reductions and changes will need to be made so that the City's General Fund budget can remain "balanced." In total approximately $1 million in reductions will be necessary by July 2016. The actual service reductions and changes will ultimately be decided upon by the City Council. Possible options include contracting a portion, or all Public Safety services to an outside agency; eliminating or significantly reducing other non-Public Safety services; such as Library services, recreational, planning, or senior services.
This is, of course, somebody's rather slanted opinion about April's UUT ballot initiative and its possible effects, and therefore politics. The city hopes you to vote Yes and give them that big 25% utility tax increase they want. This "fact sheet" is in no way analytical or nonpartisan as it doesn't also include any discussion of such budget busters as unfunded pensions or the absurdly expensive health care plans and benefits our City Hall gave away to its managerial staff.
Much of this was done behind closed doors and negotiated without our knowledge, I might add. Personnel matters as they say. Very private, you know. So much for the City Council being the watchdogs of the public purse.
The Howard Jarvis people have an informative article up on the web called "How to Defeat Local Sales Taxes" (link). While we are talking today about utility taxes, the article still gives us some useful and important insights.
I pulled two paragraphs out of the Jarvis article so that we can discuss them. The first one deals with the possible illegality of what City Hall has done here.
Since it is illegal for local officials to use public resources (including public funds) to urge a vote for or against a ballot measure, consultants frequently counsel tax supporters on the best way to wage "information" or "education" campaigns. This often means putting up signs or sending out material stating all the "good things" a sales tax would do, but stopping just short of telling people how to vote. These tactics sometimes occur even before a tax is officially placed on the ballot.
It is clear that since the postage used to mail this so-called "UUT Fact Sheet" came out of public funds, and therefore was paid for by the tax and ratepayers of Sierra Madre, the public resources angle is more than covered. Throw in some envelopes, paper, printing costs, along with the salaries and benefits of the staff factotums that put this political mailing together, and it is fairly obvious that at least the spirit of the law was violated. Probably much more.
The second paragraph we borrowed from the Jarvis people deals with scare tactics.
Tax supporters also like to frequently engage in scare tactics to enhance their chances of passing a tax measure. Tax supporters attempt to "scare" voters into supporting a tax increase. Such scare tactics are frequently observed with tax measures for public safety, transportation, and public health. Taxpayers should neither tolerate nor be intimidated by such scare tactics.
When you look at the kinds of things the unnamed authors of the "UUT Fact Sheet" claim are in jeopardy, it is easy to see that City Hall is attempting to scare people. Public safety (Police, fire, paramedics), the Library, along with senior services, are all fictitiously threatened in that document. All things that the more credulous folks in town might actually believe are endangered, and leaving them stricken with fear. I guess.
Nothing at all is mentioned about the absurdly high California leading health care plans this city slipped to its favored employees, or eliminating some of the currently robust quantity of City Staff positions. Most likely because few people would be scared by that, and might even think it's a great idea.
There is nothing anywhere that shows reducing utility taxes in Sierra Madre means we have to give up the Police Department. Costs might be cut, and a few positions eliminated, but gone? Not likely. A good result of Measure UUT's demise would be that we could negotiate a new deal with the SMPD, one that is more in line with what this small city such as ours can really afford. A town that pays 53% of its General Fund to its police department is running the risk of serious financial jeopardy. It is time that was finally fixed.
Personally I cannot see any justification for City Hall charging the people who actually live here the highest utility taxes in California. Nor can I understand why we should be paying for the most expensive employee health plans in this state, either. None of that makes much sense. Why are we paying more than every other city in the state for these things? Obviously we are in need of change.
Anyway, it is the opinion of quite a few people I know in town that City Hall has broken the law by mailing their politically charged UUT Fact Sheet at public expense. The District Attorney of Los Angeles County is being contacted, as is the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento.
These kinds of deceptive practices have simply got to stop.
(Mod: There is a 2nd post today. See below.)