By Mary O’KEEFE
The Glendale Homeowners Coordinating Council invited representatives from the city of Glendale and opponents and supporters of Measure N.
Measure N will be on the ballot this June. The Measure asks voters if the city’s Utility Users Tax (UUT) should be repealed. If passed, 9.5% of the revenues in the Glendale city’s annual general fund, which works out to about $17.5 million this year, would be eliminated.
Measure UTT was a ballot initiative proposed to residents by the Glendale City Council in the April 2009 election. It updated a utility users tax on telephone services that was established in 1969. The update reduced the UUT rate from 7% to 6.5%, while maintaining exemptions for low-income senior and disabled residents. That included cellular phones. During the decade preceding the UUT update, usage skyrocketed, while landline use dropped correspondingly. The Measure passed with 66.6% of the voters in 2009.
The loss of funding would affect areas that are paid from the general fund that includes police, fire, libraries and parks and recreation.
Bill Taliaferro argued in favor of repealing the UUT (Utility User Tax).
He said he had always been politically aware but had never been as involved as he is now with Measure N; however, recently he was at a function where a Glendale councilmember talked about spending $10 million on library improvements. At the time Taliaferro thought the city did not have the money.
“I feel if you don’t have the money why spend it,” he said.
He was then told some of the funds came from a federal grant, but that didn’t make it all right, according to Taliaferro.
“So we are taking tax dollars from some miner in Virginia to pay for our library shelves. That doesn’t seem right,” he said. “We need to be responsible and tighten our belt.”
And to do that he turned to Measure N.
Baroian, whose argument focused on what the loss of this $17.5 million would mean to homeowners, presented the No on N side.
“A repeal of the UUT would change the fabric of Glendale,” he said. “And it would have a direct impact on homeowners.”
Baroian went on to list all of the possible scenarios that might occur if this money was no longer available including the loss of police and fire services.
The city and those opposed to the repeal have been accused of scare tactics. In fact, several people at the GHCC meeting had mentioned this concern, especially when there was talk of a possible crime rate increase due to fewer police and the closing of fire stations in local neighborhoods.
“I didn’t mean for this to appear as scare tactics,” Baroian said.
But because Glendale police and fire would be two of the areas affected if the repeal occurs is a viable concern.
“What is going to happen if I ask the Chief [Robert Castro] to eliminate 50 officers?” asked city manager Scott Ochoa.
The funds lost would mean that across the board police and fire response would be affected, Ochoa said.
Whether Measure N is passed or not will not change the amount of crime or number of calls for service throughout the city, Ochoa pointed out.
The response time to emergencies would change if there were fewer people to respond to the emergency.
“I understand that this tax is [equal to] $7 a month [per person] for the average family,” said a woman in the audience. “I don’t want to lose my quality of life for $7 a month.”
If the UUT tax is repealed contracts already negotiated with outside sources, police and fire salary negotiations and programs that have already been planned with general funds would not be affected. Those would have to continue as outlined in the negotiated contracts and paid for by dipping into the general fund reserves.
Suggestions on how the city could save money were made and ranged from establishing a volunteer fire department to contracting services from outside sources that would not require pensions.
Ochoa said the city had contracted out for several services as a way to save funds and will continue to do so in the future; however, he doubted that a volunteer fire department would work in the a city the size of Glendale.
There were also suggestions of cuts in the city employee salaries that have some reportedly paid over $150,000 annually.
“This isn’t a salary measure,” Ochoa said.
The loss may not affect just fire and police but library and park hours might be cut.
Voters will have to decide whether the passage of Measure N and the benefits of a tax repeal would outweigh the loss of services, including police and fire, the city stated it would face.
For information from the city of Glendale on UUT visit www.GlendaleUUT.com.
For more stories on Measure N visit www.cvweekly.com and search UUT.