Digging into Measure S


An increase in taxes, even a rather modest one of 0.75%, is not an easy sell for any city, county or state agency. And when that increase will raise the sales tax to 10.25% – the state maximum – that makes it even more difficult.

Measure S is called “Glendale Quality of Life and Essential Services Protection Measure.” It is presented by the Glendale City Council. The reasoning behind the title is what the city plans to do with the money, if the Measure is passed.

According to the city’s website, revenue from Measure S, which is estimated to generate about $30,000,000 annually, would be used to preserve and “enhance our neighborhoods, including repairing and upgrading local streets, providing affordable housing, maintaining local parks and community centers, maintaining police and fire station staffing, public safety, sustainability efforts and other essential services.”

But what Measure S is more likely about is getting a piece of the sales tax pie before it goes to the County or other entities.

The state has mandated that California sales tax can only be raised as high as 10.25%. Glendale is 0.75% less than the highest sales tax allowed. If Measure S does not pass, there is a good chance that the next ballot will have voters looking at a 0.75% increase that benefits other agencies. For example, the AQMD (Air Quality Management District) has conducted a public survey to look into an increase in sales tax. It has yet to vote on the measure.

If not the AQMD, there is always a chance that another sales tax measure will be on the ballot in the future.

“What people forget is these [Measures] are not decided by Glendale [alone] but voters in LA County,” said Tom Lorenz, City of Glendale spokesman.

There it is again – less local control of funds.

Lorenz gives an example of Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax LA County voters approved in 2017.

“Measure H is a great example. [Glendale] generates $10 million a year [from that tax],” he said. “We get about $395,000 from that.”

He added the County recently adjusted that figure closer to $300,000.

Another example using Measure H is looking at who pays it. Cities within LA County, like Santa Monica, already have 10.25% sales tax, so when Measure H passed, their sales tax stayed the same. The funds for Measure H are taken from the cities that do not have the highest rate of sales tax, yet Santa Monica receives funding from Measure H due to its high rate of homeless within their city.

The concern for some is if Measure S passes where the approximately $30,000,000 will go. Mike Mohill, who speaks at the Glendale City Council meeting on a regular basis against the Measure, states that the money will be used for CALPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System).

The Glendale City Council, though, will determine where the funds, if approved, will be spent during the budget process. Measure S funds will be a separate line item. The budget process is done through hearings and engagement with the community, Lorenz said.

“It could be used on issues with homelessness, families that live below the poverty line. The [Council] could identify funding for subsidized housing, it could [help] with traffic issues and pedestrian safety,” he said.

It could also be used to maintain firefighter and paramedic staffing or attain more police. According to the City’s Measure S website, the number of Glendale city employees has been reduced by over 400 in the last 13 years, with 40 of those positions eliminated from fire and police.

Another criticism is the Measure does not include a sunset clause.

“If we are at a 10.25% sales tax, then another measure gets passed [in the County or state] and we have a sunset [clause]. We will be hanging in limbo. When the tax sunsets, then the [approved] tax will be automatic,” Lorenz said.

Then the city will lose control of that sales tax revenue with a sunset, or deadline, but still pays the sales tax to whatever entity it was approved for in a vote.

There is not a No on Measure S rebuttal on the ballot because no one person, or organization, came forward with a rebuttal prior to the state established deadline.

“They missed the deadline,” said Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian, Glendale City clerk. He referred to the Glendale Coalition for Better Government, the organization that wanted to write a rebuttal.

“They said that someone should have called them and told them the deadline was coming,” Kassakhian said.

He said he understood the complexity of voting rules and regulations, but could not call one organization without contacting all others and then run the risk of missing some. The state sets hard deadlines because of the process it must go through.

In the end, it comes down to the power of the vote as to whether Measure S passes. The Measure is on the Tuesday, Nov. 6 ballots of Glendale residents.