Trying to understand Sierra Madre’s UUT - The City of Sierra Madre, through its taxpayer-funded literature, has created near hysteria regarding the fate of city services if a 67 percent increase in the Utility User Tax (UUT) does not get voter approval.
There are several things that residents don’t understand. One is that even with the UUT increase, the city’s projected budget deficit will only be covered for one year. During the second and subsequent years, the city budget will once again have deficits if nothing changes in the way the city provides services. In other words, a permanent tax increase for a temporary solution. Another thing residents don’t realize is that the information about contracting police services, appearing on the front page of the city’s informational brochure, has been radically distorted.
The numbers reflected on the brochure in no way resemble the figures presented last fall to the committee I served on that reviewed contract proposals from the Sheriff’s Department. Residents don’t realize these things because none of them attended the review committee meetings when the hard numbers were examined.
All three contract proposals would save the city money. It is only after first-year considerations, unnecessary position retentions and a lot of creative math that the city shows contracting to be more expensive. The only way the page-one brochure numbers could be accurate is if they include the considerations, the unnecessary city staff position, the 5 percent hypothetical county rate increase plus the actual 4 percent increase for the Sheriff’s Department in the next fiscal year.
The fine print on the brochure says none of these are part of the calculation. That’s impossible. And the higher UUT will not provide the money that would be needed to increase salaries above the current levels which is said to be the primary cause of the recruiting and retention problems in the police department.
The UUT measure is deflecting attention from what is truly a more worrisome problem; that being the pension debt the city has accumulated. As of July 2014, that debt was $9 million. Today, two years later, it is higher. And that number will keep growing as long as the city continues to provide all of its own services, with its own employees on its own payroll. At some point, that debt will reach a point where the city might have to declare bankruptcy, or worse, be forced to liquidate its assets to pay off that debt and then disincorporate. No one would want to see that happen.
Sierra Madre residents need to think about the long-term consequences when they vote on Measure UUT. Do they want a permanent 67 percent tax increase that won’t solve the problems, or let the tax sunset to 6 percent as scheduled and force the solutions to begin now.
— Don Handley, Sierra Madre
Another $2,000 from the Sierra Madre Police Association
As far as I can tell they're up to $4,000 now. A relatively small amount when you figure in the many millions of dollars in unfunded pension debt you are going to be expected to pay them over the next few years. Get ready to dig deep.