Monday, August 7, 2017

Is It Sierra Madre Tax Raising Deja Vu All Over Again?


Facebook is where the local Tax Claque likes to go and whip themselves up into the kind of mad frenzy that helped pass Measure UUT on its third trip to the polls, and they're hardly stopping there. It is starting to looks like the City of Sierra Madre is in for yet another round of tax raising fun beginning this coming fall.

The above comes from what appears to be a recently established Facebook page titled "Sierra Madre Firefighters and Paramedics Association," which apparently means Sierra Madre's once upon a time volunteer fire department is now unionized and gearing up for what should be an exciting tax season for all.

Nothing like the over 70% support for raising utility taxes that we saw at the polls in 2016 to set the hounds to baying. The gold rush is on, baby. Link here.

Of course, there are some unfortunate facts that might get in the way. At least for a few. When you include all of the many services now being taxed, and with the possible exception of Culver City, doughty Sierra Madre now has the very highest Utility User Tax (UUT) in all of California. Yes, that's right. Sierra Madre is now #2. And here you thought the place was second to none.

According to the always useful MuniServices site (link), this is what Sierra Madreans are currently paying in utility taxes.


Arcadia's UUT is not only lower, but fewer categories are taxed as well.


Even tax heavy Pasadena is a veritable UUT haven when compared to Sierra Madre.


If you go to the CaliforniaCityFinance.com website (link), you will be able to gauge what an outlier Sierra Madre has become when it comes to utility taxes. Yes, you'll need to look all the way to the right.


If you really do want to bring the pay and benefits of the Firefighters and Paramedics here up to par with what Sierra Madre's Replacement Police Department is taking home these days, you could vote yourself a 15% UUT. There is no law anywhere that would stop you from doing that. Yes, you really could make the place #1 again.

Of course, there is no guarantee even that would be enough. Measure UUT was supposed to take care of everything from the Library to water infrastructure to questions regarding the existence of the aluminum permanent holiday tree. Remember all of the promises made on those many postcards mailed in support of a 10% utility tax? Now the city is selling the property out from under the Library, and those water pipes? They are definitely not getting any younger.

Throw in the Water Bond debt, CalPERS debt, salaries, sidewalk repair, tree trimming, all of that stuff, and you do start getting into some real money. How high can taxes in Sierra Madre get? Do you raise parcel taxes? Is it possible to institute a city income tax? Sales taxes? Sell your children into slavery? Do you raise every fee and rate in existence? Bring the cost of water up to that of gasoline?

In a city of only 11,000 people the options do start to run thin after a while.

Certainly none of that would ever dawn on the giddy tax fans over on the Sierra Madre Firefighters and Paramedics Association Facebook page, however. As you can see below, they're getting out the pots and pans and gearing up for what should be another very exciting tax raising season. It's what they do.


It seems obvious to me that the party is never going to end. Good luck to you!

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

73 comments:

  1. I spoke with someone who supported the 10% forever UUT and after it passed agreed with me that it could not possibly meet the projected budget needs of the city! Will we ever?

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    1. It will never be enough. CalPERS debt alone is estimated at $,8000 per household.

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  2. Hear ye, Hear ye gather around and learn this valuable lesson, nothing is for free but why pay too much for your services in the first place? Los Angeles County can solve your fears - Fire & Paramedic along with Policing one stop shopping bundle it all together for one low price.

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    1. Just put the Sheriffs in a Sierra Madre PD uniform. How would you tell the difference?

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  3. Parcel tax has been discussed by a few of the council members, as a way to save the city.
    Most of the take your CalPERS and retire from the Fire Department, group will be in favor of this.
    How long ago was it that Sierra Madre made the change, from a Volunteer department to a paid department? Not that long ago. My guess, that training hours as a perk to meet certification, are no longer are a valuable perk, it's show me the money.

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    1. To answer your question the "paid" personnel at the department all have full time jobs elsewhere with benefits. That is not the issue. The issue does fall with training hours, and recruiting qualified candidates for the "volunteer firefighter position. The department used to get between 250-300 applicants for a written test. Lately the number has been more like 25-50. Few are truly qualified, and many of those are lost to paid departments before they even get through the hiring process. .
      But also the community must ask itself is it fair to expect the best quality firefighters and paramedics minutes away at all times for free or minimum wage when cities such as South Pasadena and San Marino offer full pay and benefits? I say that simply to raise awareness of expectations. The old volunteer department as you say was nice, but the reality was there were many safety and training issues and incidents that came along with that. The personnel were wonderful people giving their best, but the training standards and safety standards of the fire service have evolved greatly over the last decade or two.
      Many from our neighboring departments experienced those issues and incidents from the past. The current department is facing challenges in regards to Automatic Aid with our neighboring departments because of things that happened many years ago.

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  4. Paramedic program was financed for two years, from the sale of the Canyon Fire House and the Nursery School property being sold and no longer leased from the city.
    How could the past Councilmen not do the math for future expense and not have made better judgements?

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    1. Ask Doug Hayes. He did the water bonds. It takes a special kind of genius to rack up over $8 million in interest payments on a $6 million bond.

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    2. 8:00, Respectively, was it just 2 years ago? I remember that it was just a bandage for the Paramedic program and it seems to me that the Council knew the can was being kicked down the road. Of course, nothing was done since the vote in the way of planning for the future. Now that fateful day is here!

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    3. The paramedic program is almost self sufficient through revenue from medical billing and the subscription program. Other revenue possibilities that are being looked at are staffing the second paramedic unit for contracted special event coverage at local venues.

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  5. Oh the things I would love to say.

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  6. I am in favor of Sierra Madre instituting a VAT. It works well in Europe MSMGA.

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    1. No Value Added Tax for me!

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    2. What is the difference between a sales tax and a value added tax?

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    3. A sales tax increase would be of no use as nobody sells anything here but their houses.

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  7. Whoa, Doug Hayes also gave us CalPERS.
    All these years I thought Bart Doyle was the person out to destroy this town.

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    Replies
    1. Bart and Doug worked closely together. It took a village.

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    2. Took a village? That's very funny!

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    3. The Doyle-Hayes Grand Slam!

      1) DSP
      2) Water bond debt
      3) CalPERS debt
      4) One Carter

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    4. 9:37, AKA, the Denny's Special

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    5. Comes with a large slab of ham.

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    6. @10:51, Would that be PORK?

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    7. Look at it this way. The water bonds were issued to fund needed water infrastructure for the DSP. Councilman Hayes voted for the bonds. He also had invested a lot of money in the DSP. Just in case you're wondering why this has been so carefully covered up all of these years.

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    8. Forensic audit, please.

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  8. With the reorganization of the Fire Department and Paramedics, the expense continues to be astronomical.
    Compile the last ten - fifteen years of the types of service calls and runs to the hospitals, or how ever many years since the Paramedic program began; this should be available to the public, when calculating how to move forward.

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    Replies
    1. how many are from the Kensington?

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    2. Those numbers are available and many are to the Kensington. Also be careful using the word astronomical as the costs are still "astronomically" less than any other Fire Department around. They are also almost fully self funded through medical billing and the subscription program.

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  9. Why can't all new hires be part of the Social Security system like the folks that are paying their salaries? Kind of like our Congress who receive platinum health care while the rest of us stand in line for our doctors and approvals. One system for everyone.

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  10. Thanks to Mrs. Delmar and assisted by Mrs. Arizmendi; new city hires fall under a different contract.
    This city is stuck with CalPERS, but the approach moving forward on new hires gives options.

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    1. Since the city is in the hole to CalPERS somewhere between $10 million and $40 million dollars (nobody seems to know for certain), this would have to be categorized as a "deckchairs on the Titanic" solution.

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  11. This has nothing to do with how an employee is paid; as quoted from the Facebook of Fire and Paramedics. It has everything to do with the lousy expense of retirements from the CalPERS set up.
    Maybe Mr. Hayes and his spouse were bitten by those vector mosquitos she was always talking about; and receiving a paycheck from City Hall for the presentation.

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    1. According to Transparent California the Dougster's old lady Dr. Janice Nelson is paid around $300,000 a year by LA County, bennies included. Obviously Sierra Madre's high taxes are of no concern to them.
      http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2011/los-angeles-county/janice-m-nelson/

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  12. With as much money that is wasted by CalPERS would the city be better off dropping CalPERS and going to a system that makes it beneficial for City and Employees? A system that allows for a good pension that makes it beneficial to stay with the city and help improve the overall workings of the City at the same time strengthening the stability of the City. With a new pension in place we could then change out contracts that are out of date and no longer relate to longevity and costs of living. Obviously there is more to the big picture but you get the idea.

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    1. This tiny Sierra Valley town voted to pull out of CalPERS. Now city retirees are seeing their pensions slashed
      http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-loyalton-calpers-pension-problems-20170806-htmlstory.html?=

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    2. Why should I care about pensions of lazy city bureaucrats? Time to pull out of CalPERS. You shouldn't be able to retire and then immediately get another plush well paying job.

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  13. The Facebook people are childlike in their innocence.

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    1. Childlike? Or idiocy? Good grief, do they not realize that any tax is not going to get us out of debt unless we get rid of something? The math doesn't take a rocker scientist! We'll get a parecle tax, then an increase in UUT, water bills, etc. Next year they'll tell us they weren't able to do any of the infrastructure. And the same idiots will vote for more taxes. I have never minded paying for taxes but I do expect to see something other than employee benefits being paid.

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  14. 11:30am. Sierra Madre had that type of pension plans before the City Council of Hayes and Doyle, along with two additional votes from Council gave us the CalPERS system that this town is now locked into.
    Be cautious who you vote into Council seats, some individuals are out for personal gain.

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    1. Which council members voted for CalPERS?

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  15. With the elitist mindset of folks in this town, and all their drivel about how sweet it is that we have our very own services, we will all be writing a check each year for a couple of grand as "membership dues" for the privilege of living here. It's not going to stop unless/until the folks in city hall wise up to the fact that they are doing things they simply can't afford anymore.

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    1. If caring about my property values is elitist than I am of that mindset. I don't want to live in Duarte and don't want my standard of living to decrease to save $500. a month.If you want something nice you must pay for it as with anything in life. I hear its nice in Tennessee if you are Caucasian,perhaps you would be happier there,if not it's kinda horrid

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  16. Interesting when the likes of John are running they are all about holding down taxes but once on council they start singing a different tune. Are they afraid of something or someone? We all know there is a problem but it never get addressed or fixed.

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    1. My friend says once they get elected, they start drinking the Kool-Ade. Don't forget the mayor. She promised to keep down taxes but voted them in when it came time to vote! Now she's there for her upwardly mobile photo-ops.

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    2. John Cappocia ran as an anti-tax candidate. Once elected he supported every tax, rate and fee increase put in front of him. Not a man of his word.

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  17. Council history will answer that question. The better question would be; why is there not more study and discussion on agenda items that fiscally change how this city is run.
    This change was made with one meeting (not clear what was discussed outside of meeting by a few, including Mr. Hayes).
    Why was this not brought before the Director of Finance and then presentations made public?

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  18. 21% more policing coverage with a lower costing factor over all with the L.A.C. Sheriffs Department and L.A.C. Fire Department. Then a breather comes with some savings.

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  19. Sales and distribution tax dollars are always welcome, just be happy just change the city ordinances and make money while other cities suffer.

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  20. The breather comes, short savings for a year or two, then the increase in service charges continue to climb.
    Once you switch over and make changes, it is impossible to get back.

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    1. Your absolutely correct and in 2 years there will be more changes taking place to conserve and get the citizens back in control of their 'outlaw' city hall and it's employees. Empowering it's voter residents will give back hope and new directions.

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  21. I'l bet those who complain the most about UUT and CalPERS are longtime homeowners who get GINORMOUS tax breaks from Prop 13.

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    1. They organized, they got Prop 13 on the ballot, and they won. You, on the other hand, do little more than whine.

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    2. All property owners benefit from Prop 13. You know how much your taxes will be now and in the future. If you don't like the taxes don't buy the house. The people that have a lower bill have been here a while and have contributed to the community unlike someone who has recently moved here.

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    3. Thank you 5:16 and 5:37. I remember my brother going door to door promoting Prop 13. It was a good win for all. I still belong to the Howard Jarvis Association. They are having a difficult battle with Sacramento. The politicians are trying to undue Prop.13. If done, it will mean higher taxes, and then higher rents and costs for all Californians. No wonder many Californians are moving out of state!

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    4. People who recently purchased are paying way more than longtime owners, who you say have "contributed to the community."

      Longtime owners use today's public services that are paid for at today's costs, but pay based on yesteryear's valuations. Sounds like someone is getting a windfall.

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  22. These were the same idiots that gave us Goldberg weed patch. The city bought the property from the Goldbergs and Enid Joffre named it after them. Joffre Moran Buchanan Walsh were on the city council then. Correct me if I am wrong.

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    1. Joffe, Buchanan, Mosca, Watts and Zimmerman.

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  23. 5:44pm. If that's true, then it was a three, yea and two, nea vote that bought that park at top real estate dollar.
    The city is still paying that off that purchase; could be it's time to sell.

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    1. They all voted for it. Enid wanted it for her friends. Kurt Zimmerman later told me he made a mistake.

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    2. Sell Goldberg Park and use the money to fix the Library. It is a far better solution. Do we know who the developer is that is pushing the city to sell the Library property yet?

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  24. Goldberg Park lot cost the value of the Nursery School land. A straight across exchange. The city could only spend the money from the Nursery School land (in a "park") on another park. That is the real boon doggle in all this.

    The lot to the south of it is still owned by the Goldberg family (?).

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  25. Hey everyone. Before this all gets out of hand I would like to clear up a couple things.
    1. The Sierra Madre Fire Department has not "Unionized." The Association is the same Association that has been in place for decades. There is no union.
    2. The meeting with the Captains and City Manager will be to discuss various response models under the current budget. Nothing has been brought up regarding a tax increase to date.
    3. On that point comparisons are made to cities like Arcadia and Pasadena. These are large cities with malls, car dealerships, big name stores, hospitals, colleges, oh and yes a Rose Bowl and Horse Race Track so the comparison for tax revenue is a bit skewed.
    4. While the country often offers wonderful service for many areas, it is not always the most cost effective or best value. The SMFD currently has a budget of around 1.6 million. The previous bid for services from the county was around 3.8 million. That was not for in house Paramedics. That was for a single engine company in house, with Paramedics to respond from stations in Duarte, Temple City, or Altadena. Currently Sierra Madre has premiere fire/Paramedic coverage at half the cost. Again I am not knocking LA County services. I personally work for the county providing emergency service and it is excellent. However it fits better in some places than others.
    5. As for the comment on SMFD responses over the last 5 years that is a great question. Those numbers are available for anyone who wants to see them. Last year SMFD responded to 1,096 calls for service which was a record. This year they are on pace to beat that number and hit 1200.

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    1. Two questions:
      1) What is your association asking for?
      2) Given Sierra Madre's severe financial challenges, how do you see this being paid for?

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  26. Honestly at this point the Association is not asking for anything. The department admin and the City Manager are meeting tomorrow to explore options in response model variations.
    The unique issue is honestly our department is by far the most cost effective approach to fire/EMS. The department budget is around 1.6 million dollars for full 24 hour in house fire/Paramedic service. The last bid from the county was around 3.8 million. That was for just a single engine company in house, and the paramedic squad responding from one of the existing stations in Duarte, Temple City, or Altadena. I am not knockkg the county in any way. I am a career county employee full time and it often offers a more cost effective approach. But it works better in some places than in others. For example, areas where LACFD is the provider for all the surrounding areas. Sierra Madre is surrounded mostly by other city departments.
    All the Captains have great ideas of ways to do things. Currently the paramedic program is almost self funding through revenue from medical billing and the subscription program. SMFD also had the back up ambulance (RA 741) that could also be used to staff special events in the area under a contract.
    Other options include operating with fewer personnel working more shifts/hours. This could require a stipend or payment possibly,but would save money in other areas such as the amount of uniforms, turnouts, and other personal supplies needed for more staffing.
    Again there are a number of options and great ideas. We will have to see what specific plans arise after the meeting tomorrow.

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    1. That's all good I guess, though it does sound a lot like the kinds of things we heard when Measure UUT was on the ballot 15 months ago. But I am still confused. What is it you want?

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  27. Please feel free to join the FB group SIERRA MADRE FIREFIGHTERS AVD PARAMEDICS ASSOCIATION to keep up to date. We try to keep the community informed and answer questions as best we can.

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  28. Just the ability to train and keep quality firefighter personnel for longevity which will require more incentives. Also to integrate more with other agencies in Automatic Aid in the Verdugo system. Honestly some reorganization and re-allocation should fix the minor issues. All in all we are proud to be the best and want to keep being the best. The citizens don't need another fire department servicing Sierra Madre when they already have an outstanding department.

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    1. So it is about money. Nothing against the FD or paramedics, but you are way late to the party. The cops and city staff already cleaned the town out.

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  29. It's not about the money. Whoever ran with this on the Tattler made some false assumptions and jumped the gun. SMFD is well aware of the city budget issues and limits.

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    1. Then what do you want?

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  30. We just want to continue providing service to the community and not let our services be farmed out to another agency. We want people to be fully informed and aware of what services they truly get for their money. Be informed about our department in and out through questions and answers. Join our association FB group to learn about our services and personnel through questions and answers. Get information from multiple sources, not just bloggers who may or may not understand all the issues at hand. That's all we want.

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    1. In other words, you want your opinions to be the only ones heard. I understand. It's a labor action, the issue is money and benefits, and you don't want anyone spooking the marks. I'm not sure the bromides you're continually serving up are going to accomplish that, however.

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    2. The SMFPA aka SMVFA is not even a labor organization. It's a non profit fundraising organization that raised money for things around the firehouse, supplies, donations to local venues and organizations etc. You seem to confuse it with an IAFF labor union which it is not.

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