Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Revenue Committee Member Barry Gold's Letter to the City Council Regarding a 12% Utility User Tax

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I don't agree with everything Barry says in this letter. I personally think the UUT should continue to sunset and then stay at 6%. It is what the residents of Sierra Madre voted for twice, and this needs to be respected. Of course, you might disagree. Some in town want to get rid of it altogether.

That said, there are a couple of revelations in this letter that need to be discussed. Especially an as yet unpublicized future effort to raise $80 million dollars in new property taxes. Which is just about what it will take to fund urgently needed infrastructure repairs here. Something that apparently has very little to do with hiking UUT rates, though many in town seem to believe it would. I'm not sure that the city has been very clear about this.

Apparently a 12% UUT would be for less productive things than - let's say - fixing Sierra Madre's disastrously neglected water pipes. Mostly it would go to pay for things like employee salary adjustments, comparatively generous benefit packages and especially CalPERS. Much of which was already negotiated and promised by past City Councils that had no real idea about how to pay for such generosity. Outside of raising utility taxes, of course.

Cop union members in particular would experience the joy of being compensated for more than they probably deserve. Something they seem to believe they are owed in exchange for their support of Revenue Committee lead John Harabedian's City Council election campaign a few years back. A rather costly (and cozy) Los Angeles way of doing business, especially for a small town of less than 11,000 already overtaxed residents.

Those actually paying for this utility tax increase probably won't get very much in real value back. That would come later with the big property tax increase. Something that nobody at City Hall seems to want to discuss quite yet.

With the exception of Barry, of course. Here is his letter.


One Revenue Committee member probably thinks huge pension packages are fine

Here is a little perspective for you. Pat Holland is a former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department employee, and as such probably thinks big employee pension costs are the way things should go. No tax is too high. Something that, in my opinion, made his membership on the Revenue Committee a little problematic.

Courtesy of Transparent California (link), here's what Pat is pulling down these days.


Los Angeles County has a population of over 10 million people. Sierra Madre has less than 11,000 people. Somebody please explain how the taxpayers here can be expected to fund similar SMPD retirement packages.

Just in case you were wondering why residents of the Foothill Village will soon be asked to vote themselves the highest utility tax rates in California history, this is it.

Sierra Madre's real problems are far more mundane

Nobody does mundane better than the current incarnation of the Sierra Madre Patch (link).


Maybe we should be talking more about this kind of thing rather than funding six figure retirement packages for city employees?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

63 comments:

  1. mr. Gold's letter seems to recognize only one source of revenue for the City: UUT taxes. I believe the City also receives revenue from other sources, most notably, property taxes. With the recent rage in house sales in town the income to the City in newly assessed properties is significant AND sustained. The City will continue to receive these tax dollars every year. Why has the City not issued information in the increased receipts from property taxes? Before any UUT increase is considered, all tax revenue sources need to be placed in front of the voters.

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    1. I believe Barry discusses property tax increases as well. Apparently they are the next tax hike down the road after the 12% UUT.

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  2. yes, he discusses it as a new parcel tax to be added to the taxes already paid. The City currently receives more income now from all the property sales that have occurred in the last year. What is that amount of additional revenue? The City needs to truthfully disclose this amount to the voters before any rate increase in the UUT tax takes place.

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  3. Does anyone have an educated guess about how much of a property tax increase they will try to pass?

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    1. Dunno. But both tax proposals need to be presented at the same time. That would be more transparent.

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    2. The city doesn't want people thinking about a property tax increase right now. They always want whatever their current tax raising effort is to seem like it is the last one they'll ever ask for. Of course that is never true.

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    3. No matter how much the city gets, it will never be enough to quench their thirst for more. More staff, more programs, more consultants, more raises, more attorney fees, more bathrooms, etc.

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  4. So Pat Holland is on the revenue committee. He gets over $150,000 per year for the rest of his life for NOT WORKING. Does the average taxpayer really want to work harder and retire later (rather than at 50) so that we can pay for the Pat Holland's of the world - I don't think so. Its the same problem that Chicago is facing. The pensions for retired public employees are simply too extravagant. They should not be able to retire at 50 with 90% of their salary plus lifetime medical benefits. Its putting every city in every state in danger of insolvency. And then we are presented with the choice of either higher UUT rates or a cut in needed services. Well, there's another choice. The public employees need to be changed to Defined Contribution Pension Plans and away from Defined Benefit Pension Plans which are bankrupting cities all over this country. We are not out of money because we have too many services. Its because the public employees are able to retire as early as 50 with extravagant pensions. That's the problem and its the same problem in every city.

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    1. Great comment. Taxpayers here are being asked to pay record setting utility taxes so city hall can make the same employee compensation mistakes as everywhere else.

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  5. The city needs to be clear and honest about everything. Be frank about what previous city councils allowed to happen. Tell us in plain English, not Elaine-speak, what their plans are to get us out of debt. Be honest when they tell us that we are not meeting our water quota and that all the leaks are counting against us. We will be paying big fines to the state because of this. Elaine came up with various phases for cutting salaries or employees. We now need to look at that again and cut employees again, without the threat that we'll have to close the library or other services that we, as citizens, care about. They need to tell us how CALPERS was instituted and whose brilliant idea that was.How and when did the police dept. unionize. Only the CC can answer any of this. They recently agreed to hire more people. How? Why? They have to acknowledge if there are people employed by the city that get retirement benefits from a previous job. No more double dipping for them. As citizens, we need to hold these commissions to do more than what the city manager wants. All of these people are supposed to work for the citizens. We need some guts but I'm afraid with all the agendas these people have and favors they owe, we will never see it. Instead, we get leaky pipes, bad water, cut services, etc. Again, we let this happen. SM is a lovely place to live in as long as we don't have to do anything to keep it that way. Too many citizens don't care and don't become involved in anything.Where are the young people? Are they all progressive and think it's okay to tax and tax and tax? I'd love to hear from some of them, you know, all those involved school ladies and the after-school social set at Starbucks! I am so through with all of this.

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    1. The young people here are very typical Americans - not involved.

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    2. Most people are not involved.

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    3. I'm sending a copy of this to my daughter in San Clemente along with a transcript from Fox news. She will be glad I'm staying occupied in my retirement.

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    4. Cable TV news is an oxymoron.

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    5. Compared to the Mountain Views News? Pfffft.

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    6. Mountain Views "News."

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    7. There's no way that the CC will be forthcoming about any of the actual expenses, revenue or employee retirements per CALpers. Keep the residents barefoot and preggers. Works in other cities, too

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  6. As you can see Patrick Holland is probably very sympathetic to an increased pension for the police. He can certainly afford it.

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  7. Remember this one your parents told you " fool me once, fool me twice but fool me thrice just shows how ignorant I really am at not seeing the danger of keeping incompetent people in power inside Sierra Madre city hall the power of the people vote should be used to remove those who do not respect the vote of the people, Sierra Madre still has a democracy don't they?

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  8. Ol' Pat has been compensated nearly $3 million dollars since he retired. Good work, taxpayers.

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    1. At least he stayed in CA and paid the taxes. Most of those big dollar CalPERS and LA County pensioners move out of CA once the big pension checks start rolling in. Let some other sucker pay the high taxes in CA. They don't move to NV for the weather, they move for the NO INCOME TAX.

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  9. Gee wiz. I say keep the UUT you rant,rave,call me names. Mr. Gold says' it he is politely ignored here.

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    1. Unlike you Barry has something to say.

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    2. And we trust Barry.

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    3. I'm voting for a 9% UUT,as per Barry because we trust him

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    4. Council tax hike 3 won't go for 9%. Not enough fat to spread around.

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    5. Goose promised the Library platinum bathroom fixtures.

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  10. Develop the "unused land" at the Monastery a sure win for the community!!

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    1. Maybe we could seize it using eminent domain and turn it into a dog walking park.

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    2. Not a lot of revenue as a dog park. Maybe we could charge .25 cent admission?

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    3. Money isn't everything, you know. Besides, why sell off the town's treasures just to pay CalPERS?

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    4. A sure loss for anyone who respects nature.
      We are not making new land.

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  11. Liliano is one of the newer streets in town.

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  12. Not a lot of remarks here, today, Mr. Mod. Is that apathy?

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    1. 2nd day on this topic. Yesterday there were 77 comments. Add in today and we are well over 100. Pretty good showing, actually.

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    2. Looking at the most popular articles column, I'd guess that the number of comments are not an indication of the number of readers...
      Some topics generate more comments, some not.
      It's the articles that are the best part of the Tattler.

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    3. Yup, I agree, the Tattler articles are the best part of the Tattler!..and nobody is able to write it quite the way the Mod can.

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  13. I think Barry hit it right on the nose. It seems reasonable to cap the UUT at 9% with cuts in EVERY department. Although I'm not in favor of a sunset clause, 10 years might be a reasonable time to review a tax. I doubt, however, that it could go down in that time since cost of living has gone up every year that I can remember - not just for a city, but for individuals as well. Retirement benefits can't be cut for existing employees. Benefits for new employees are not as onerous.

    To get an idea of income and expenses for the City, take a look at the proposed brochure that will be presented to the Council tonight. This was Denise Delmar's idea and under her oversight, so I trust the information presented.

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    1. For me to vote for a tax increase the city will have to offer an honest explanation of how things got so bad and expensive. Just blaming the residents for turning down their tax increase requests twice won't fly with me. The mismanagement has been going on for years. Just look at the Water Department. Time for a little truth telling, City Hall. Otherwise no deal.

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    2. So who gave away the store? And why do we have to pay for it now? City Hall should not be allowed to commit to the spending of UUT funds the taxpayers haven't voted on yet.

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    3. I looked at the brochure. It is easier to underrstand than anything Aguilar has done. It still can be cut. We really need that many policeman? There are ways for the budget to be cut. I think warrant requests should be made clearer so you know what money is spent on. There's a 40,000 electric bill along with all the other electric bills, but you can't tell what it is spent on. I guess they don't want you to know. There are a lot of questions there. Rarely does the CC comment on warrants. I guess they don't want us to know. So the brochure is informative but what does it solve? Anything?

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    4. It better be good. Otherwise I join the ERA (Earl Richey's Army).

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  14. Regarding the comments made yesterday about Earl Richie' s petition:
    Does that mean there is no chance of getting his petition on the ballot? Is this a done deal?

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    1. It will happen. But the corrupt LA political machine is throwing all kinds of obstacles in the way. The kinds of things I doubt would happen if it was instead a citizens' initiative for a utility tax increase. And it certainly looks like we're going to need it.

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    2. I heard they were re-doing it. The last submission was denied by one signature. Hopefully they will get it done in time.

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    3. The crooked County of Los Angeles gets a cut of the UUT pie. So of course they're going to lie. You know, so the County Supervisors can drive around in shiny new 8 cylinder McCars and tell you how green they are.

      They're all bums.

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  15. I think Earl Richie and Barry Gold should have a WWF wrestling match. If Barry wins 9%, if Earl wins no UUT

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    1. Shouldn't Tax Me Goose get to wrassle for the 12%?

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    2. No. Tax Me Goose can't wrassle without his tag team partner, Johnny Process.

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    3. I don't think Barry wants a UUT tax at all. I get the feeling he didn't agree with the committee but knew he couldn't stop them or the CC from passing it. His point seems to be make it lower. A match between Earl and Barry would be a draw. I think he would vote for Earl.

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  16. Cam Thornton is in the house. All the way from Burbank. The monastery development is all about retirement for priests. Sorry about that three years of construction!

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  17. It is Chair Garcia. Here comes the UUT increase pitch.

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    1. 12% and no sunset clause. How democratic and fair.

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    2. It's OK. Elections don't count in Sierra Madre.

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    3. Will Chair Garcia discuss what the money is actually spent on? Or is this to remain unspoken.

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    4. Capoccia is talking about the "bad information" out there. In other words, the arguments he made against a UUT increase in 2012.

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    5. Ooooo 7:21, good one.

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  18. Mayor Capoccia wants to know which cuts would scare people the most, and then recommends that they be used to scare people.

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  19. One person spoke. Isn't that just ducky! Harabedian is a joke. We know who he owes. What a bunch of losers!

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  20. A resident in the audience just did a long comment on why we should go for 12%.
    I want to suggest that he pay 12%, and I'll stay at 6%.

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  21. OK, where were you tonight to tell the ├žouncil what you think? The same thing happened at the town meeting, Harabedian and Goss are convinced Those who came want a 12% UUT, so in their minds that is the majority of the voters. Complaining on the Tattler won't do it. Show up and speak! There were only three people in the audience tonight.

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