Monday, September 21, 2015

Councilmember Harabedian's Revenue Committee Recommends Sierra Madreans Be Charged The Highest Utility Tax Rates In California

Just don't call it my cop union payoff. No, really.
It would be hard to make this kind of stuff up. After two elections in a row, events where the people of Sierra Madre voted twice to have their utility taxes lowered to 6%, City Hall is now cranking up the "process" to try and once again raise those very same taxes. This would be the third Sierra Madre municipal election in a row where a utility tax increase measure will be placed on the ballot. Obviously they just don't want to take no for an answer. It might be your money and your vote, but it is their retirement and benefit packages. Guess which carries the most weight downtown?

Just to put this all in perspective, the 12% utility tax Harabedian's Revenue Committee is pushing for would be the highest such rate in California. A kind of notoriety not everyone here might enjoy. A website called California City Finance.com (link) contains some fairly inconvenient information, especially for tax hikers. Including the following chart that clearly shows that a 12% utility tax rate does not even exist in California right now.


As you can see, a 12% UUT would literally be off the chart. Out there on a planet all its own. But it isn't just that, this is also about what exactly would be taxed. Check out this next chart.


While all of the above categories are considered utilities and therefore subject to a UUTSierra Madre is among that very tiny minority of cities that taxes each and every one of them. Couple that with a never before seen 12% utility tax rate and you can see how Sierra Madre would be by far the most utility taxed in the state.

This will be the second item on Tuesday evening's City Council agenda. Judging by the quite petite number of items on the roster, they do plan on spending quite a bit of time on this topic. Which makes sense. Acting in direct defiance of the twice voted will of the people is not exactly an easy thing to do. Expect there to be large amounts of talk. That usually is the case when a small group of people are attempting to defy a twice democratically enacted decision.

Here is part of the explanation from the City Manager's staff report (link):


The Staff Report is written in a way that suggests that this Revenue Committee was completely in accord with a 12% UUT, and that this decision was unanimous. However, that is not true. There was considerable disagreement, something that City Manager Aguilar somehow decided to airbrush from her report.

The Big Fib 

Contained in the City Manager's staff report is this rather embarrassing rationale for overturning the democratically determined results of two elections.


Facts my tookus. How a small gathering of the usual poorly informed tax supporters (and in a garage no less) can be considered a city-wide consensus to overturn two election results and raise utility taxes to the highest level in the entire state is beyond me.

Then again, maybe that is the best these people can do.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

80 comments:

  1. Did you mean 'tookus' as in the Yiddish Yiddish word?

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    1. Yes. My father's business partner was way up on all the cool Yiddishisms, and I learned them as a kid from a master. They're great words.

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  2. Water main leak and sink hole. Lilliano and arno closed at grandview. None of these future UUT funds will go to fix this or any of the other leaks we've had in the last few weeks.

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    1. Water fund problems, gonna need to raise rates.

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  3. I presume that all bloated salaries, waste, inefficiency had been completely removed from the budget. I don't think do which is why I never vote to increase any tax.

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    1. when the city manager and staff have to spend over 700 hours in pre-event planning of the Mt Wilson Trail Race and then bill the event for the hours, I think I'll vote NO on every UUT or tax request.

      in the public sector there is no accountability, responsibility or worry about job security.

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  4. The UUT increase is all about maintaining a status quo that includes big retirement payouts, platinum benefits and salaries that are far above those of the average Sierra Madrean. This is a town of under 11,000 people that some want to tax half to death so we can be just like Los Angeles. It is madness.

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  5. Another UUT increase? Oy gevalt!

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  6. Yea, every time there is a "raise the UUT" in print, it should be accompanied by the pie chart which illustrates how much of the money goes to retirement payouts, not the current City operations.

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    1. I second the pie chart. Great idea!

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  7. I can't imagine that Barry Gold would support an increase like this. I wonder what he thinks about this.

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    1. Barry has written a letter to the City Council. I will be posting it tomorrow.

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    2. That's good news, Mod. I was wondering what Mr. Gold had to say about his time on the committee. I also know that Richard Mays has a long history of accuracy and honesty. I'll consider what both of them say, but for now I am one more vote, one more time, for NO

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  8. They are all a bunch of schmucks!

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    1. We'll be the schmucks if this tax gouge happens.

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  9. Did I mention as a low income senior I'm exempt?

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    1. Exempt from what? Common decency?

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    2. So you're exempt and you don't mind making everyone else pay?

      You got yours so you don't care? Ouch.

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    3. 7:39 - I'm a senior too. Exempt from what? City Hall mismanagement? I love the library. I love the police (yeah, yeah, I know). I will never vote for a 12% UUT.

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    4. 7:39 even though you're exempt from paying UUT, you aren't exempt from City Hall misspending the hard-earned money you pay for property tax and sales tax.

      Oh, you're a renter? You don't pay property tax you say? Your rent pays your landlord's property tax.

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    5. Exempt people should not have a vote on this matter. No skin in the game. What they think doesn't matter.

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    6. "What they think doesn't matter." Yes.

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  10. I was at the garage confab and let me tell ya, when the citizens enter the voting booth with this item on the ballot our dear Ms. Aguilar will have her smack down big time. That was no consensus of opinion. I did not even fill out the final survey. It was so pooly arranged (but made to look full and productive and busy and "truth seeking") that I did manage to get all my "passport" sections stamped and placed in the baskets for the silent auction-type drawing for prizes. I thought paying people to vote was illegal--oh right that is in real elections, where you also used to have to turn your six shooter in to the sherrif as you entered the bar (closed for the moment) to cast your ballot. Wonder why in the old wild west they didn't use the church for the voting center--oh right, the church ladies were quite protective of that space, no whores or gunslingers allowed.

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    1. Elaine has been a tax hike cheerleader for years. And why not? Some of it would go right into her pocket in the form of raises, benefit bumps and pension enrichment. City Hall is a lot of out of towers who we will be paying for the rest of our lives? For what?

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    2. When I was there I only heard pissed off voters.

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  11. I had a barbecue on Saturday and everyone there said they were against raising the UUT. I think the City Manager needs to put that in this staff report.

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    1. the City Manager took a page out of the Susan Henderson playbook

      make up your facts, statistics and sources - nobody can verify them and if some asks tell them your forgot where you put the survey files

      jeez, Elaine is a complete waste of time and our money

      what's worse is we're stuck with her and we'll be paying her pension

      I wish we could just bankrupt Calpers - it's a ponzi scheme propped up by unions

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  12. All this is making me veklempt.

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    1. Just don't plotz.

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    2. State law prevents a UUT tax higher than 12%. I figure CC will go for 10%. Also, those exempt people should have the exemption amount made higher. Won't be so smug if they have to pay something.

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    3. Low income should pay a 2% rate. It will come to about $2 a month. Everyone should contribute, if only a little.

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  13. The only feedback that matters are the votes of the people in an election. Period!

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    1. Lat time the yes on UUT closed the gap.

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    2. Go for 12% and get crushed. Hell, go for 15%.

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    3. With a 15% UUT City Hall would be able to afford a rooftop pool with hot tub and salaried towel boys.

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    4. Sierra Madre City EmployeeSeptember 21, 2015 at 2:50 PM

      I only want 15% UUT because I love this town. No, really.

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    5. Enjoy your services!

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  14. Don't forget, we had to pay an additional 300,000 to CALPERS this year as they don't have enough money to pay benefits. We will have to pay them again this year. Capoccia says it would cost millions to get out of theCALPERS contract. So there ya go!!!!! It is estimated that it will cost 80,000,000 to fix the infrastructure. Elaine has been here long enough to retire soon. Does she care about us in the city? Nope! She can retire with great benefits and go elsewhere and work full time and get more money. How lucky we are.

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    1. What a mess. Can anyone tell me one thing that John Buchanan did during his 8 years in office that made a positive difference? We can certainly see all of the negative ones.

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    2. And got real quiet.

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    3. I always figured he's the one who coaxed Nancy Walsh to run.
      And more than once, told her what to say.

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    4. She did slip her leash towards the end there.

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    5. John Buchanan

      he's one dude that we'd be better off if he'd butt out of city business FOREVER

      but he's just do the bidding of his employer SoCal Edison

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  15. Tar and feathers sounds about right at this point. Since they don't pay attention to the voters, a public spectacle ought to do it.

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  16. Pitchforks and torches. When votes don't count you have to rely on the more traditional tools.

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  17. The French were good at it: Liberte, Equalite!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storming_of_the_Bastille

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  18. The City Manager does Not do her job.
    She should be Fired with cause!!!

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    1. Anyone know how her review went?

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    2. Big secret. But she is up for some kind of behind the scenes sit down with the CC tomorrow night.

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    3. "Room for improvement."

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  19. The City Manager and Flim Flam Inman must be shown the door. There time is up!

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  20. After having turned UUT increases down twice, the voters need to defend their right to decide on tax hikes. This can only be done by saying no again. This is an assault on our rights.

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    1. Sales tax in Sierra Madre: 7.5% for State Of California, plus 1.5% for Los Angeles. This adds up pretty fast and you can see why they went after the non taxing internet purchasing finally. I am still looking for another place to park my cell phone billing.

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    2. Monrovia. No UUT there.

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  21. I would go for a lower UUT, say, 8% after looking at all the figures, and only if they start now on putting the Library on as a parcel tax. But, never 12%. That's insane.

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    1. No parcel tax for the library. City Hall would use the parcel to pay for the library and use the current library money for the general fund......police and pensions.

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    2. A parcel tax is just plain wrong! Especially for this city. I doubt if they can even float bonds as their credit is so bad!

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    3. I'm glad the city has bad credit. No more borrowing!

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    4. If we try to sell the water company, will those toxic bonds go with it?

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    5. We could throw in Bruce and Dr. Baribeau.

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  22. What ever happened to Earl Richie's abolish the UUT petition? Did he get the needed signatures?

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    1. Last I heard the county was DQing signatures for really stupid reasons. They are one signature away for approval, and the bureaucracy won't give it to them. I was never going to vote for Earl's deal, but now? All options are open again.

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  23. So what do you think? I hope you all can come up with another way to fund our city government. Sheriff's department? That will cost us as much as our own department. Close the library? That will never happen, and besides they are only 8% of the budget. Maybe we should all think about merging with Arcadia and let it be done with it. Don't even talk about cuts and retirement funds. What's done is done and unless we fire ALLl of the employees and start over, we're stuck with several high profile plans that were in place before Denise and Rachelle reorganized the matrix.

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    1. There is no way to fund the city at this point. Once the decision to go with CALPERS was made, the city started the decline. It is a small village, really, so sales tax brings in little. We want to keep the town the way it is, so the city doesn't get those fat buildings fees. But that doesn't matter as those funds are spent on retirement as the UUT will be. I'm sure Arcadia would be glad to take us over, but that would be the total end. We'll have to see what the Sheriff's will cost. We have a city manager who is just waiting to tax us some more. Last but not least, we have a city council who will just not come out and admit how bad things are and why. I wonder if bankruptcy would help. Ya know the one where you restructure, like San Barnardino and Stockton did?

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    2. We are financially chained to a bunch of 6 figure compensation city employees that we will be required to support for the rest of their lives. Infrastructure is a mess, our bond situation untenable, and noone at City Hall will admit it. Here is my offer. Tell the people of Sierra Madre the truth about how bad things really are, name the responsible names, and then for God sakes fire them. Then I will vote for a tax increase to fix this mess. But until I hear a little truth about how this city has been run into the ground by useless idiots, my vote will remain NO.

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    3. LASD will be cheaper for the same level of service. I don't think the pension exposure will be as great. Pay as you go, instead of CalPERS and the "pay more later" crap.

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    4. Close the library. Make all city parties volunteer only, no staff involvement, at all. Keep the senior center open for the daily lunches, though you might want to limit that to Sierra Madre residents, but shut down everything else that goes on there. Cut the size of the police force to make sense in a small town with minor crime. Ask some residents to go through city hall with an eye to cost savings and efficiency. Fire 1/5 of the current administrative staff, and don't rehire them.

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    5. The problem with volunteers in city management is that many of them bring in their own unannounced agendas, intentionally or not. If they're supported by a certain faction of City Council, the problem can become even worse if they mislead the residents because of influence from CC.

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  24. Admiring the time and effort you put into your site and in depth information you provide. It's good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same out of date rehashed material. Excellent read!

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    1. He must want something.

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  25. And all the while those that have ascended to the throne point their crooked finger down on the populaces and decree "obey my words as commands" I am your true leader? what has happened political crack pots who bribed and paid their way to the top turn a blind eye tot he truth and keep peddling lies, a word to the wise "throw the bums out" replace them all with honest practical representatives on the Sierra Madre city council, along with a city attorney and city manager.

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  26. Does anyone from the public ever attend these committee meetings? They are announced ahead of time (as required by the Brown Act) and are open to public participation. There is a meeting of the Public Safety Committee on Monday the 28th in the continuing examination of the contract proposal from the Sheriff's Department. If nobody cares about how the City spends its money, nobody should complain about it.

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    1. Is there an agenda for the Sheriff meeting on Monday?

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