Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tax increases on the horizon for Pomona services

On Monday the Pomona City Council will be looking at possible revenue measures to help pay for Pomona services like the fire department, library, and other services. The last day to put a tax increase on the ballot is August 7.

Here are some potential taxes on the table:

  • Library tax - This would require a 2/3 vote, and would be on a per parcel basis or other "uniform basis". Resident and fellow blogger John Clifford has suggested a $38 per parcel tax, with the cost increasing based on inflation. There is precedent as Los Angeles County charges a $28.61 library tax in the unincorporated areas.
  • Fire services tax - Los Angeles County has an existing tax, Measure E, which bills single family homes $61.04 a year for fire services. As a "fee for service" city, Pomona was not included in the taxing area. A 2/3 vote would be necessary to have Pomona residents ratify this existing tax.
  • Public safety tax - Pomona studied such a tax in 2004, but the city council did not place it on the ballot. In 1998 a $65 per parcel tax was proposed, generating $1.8 million, but it failed to pass by a 2 to 1 margin.
  • Sales tax - A quarter cent sales tax increase could generate over $3 million, and would only require a majority vote. Local cities with higher sales taxes than elsewhere in the county include El Monte, Montclair, Pico Rivera, and South El Monte. The concern is that it would hurt existing businesses in the city, since the tax rate in Pomona would now be 1.25% higher than across the border in Chino Hills (because Los Angeles County has 1% additional going for transportation than the other counties). On the other hand, it is dependent on the business mix within the area, as Pico Rivera has not suffered a significant loss in taxable sales due to the sales tax increase, as it has the only 24 hour Wal-Mart Supercenter in a large radius. Pomona, on the other hand, competes with the same types of chain stores in Chino Hills, La Verne, and Montclair.
In addition, the County's "Water Quality Funding Initiative" could generate revenue for the city to address stormwater issues, which could free up money in the general fund. This is a $54 tax on single family parcels (with more on larger parcels), and is scheduled for vote in 2013.

Any such tax measure would need the full support of the city council. The Mendoza taxes failed miserably, and there has been expression not to increase the utility tax.

Also on the table on Monday is an introduction of paid parking for the streets around the courthouse and Metrolink station. Free parking is still available a short walk away from those areas, and on the north side of the tracks adjacent to the bus loading platform. The pay station model will be used instead of individual meters at each stall.

The fun begins sometimes after 6:45 p.m. Monday at Pomona City Hall.


John Clifford said...

To clarify the $38 per parcel amount that was suggested for the possible library tax.

It was estimated that the $38 would bring in approximately $2 million. This is the bare minimum that it would cost to operate the library at the funding rate currently used for a 4-days (the current $1.5 million allows the library to be open 4 days at but has no money for new books, upgrades to computers, magazine subscriptions, etc.). It is hoped that the city would still fund at the rate they have been funding from the general fund that would allow the library to be open long hours, but this would be determined by the city council each year based on the city's general fund.

It was felt that $38 per year was a reasonable amount (less than $3.17 per Month) and it would ensure the continued operations of the library. The library commission (board of trustees) can only make a suggestion and it would be up to the city council to determine if they want to put it on the ballot and if so, what the amount should be. It's now in the council's court.

calwatch said...

Council did move for staff to draft language for a special tax for the library, and also for fire (to meet the terms of the agreement with County fire chief Osby). To be discussed July 30.

Anonymous said...

Someone at the task force meeting yesterday apparently noted (while waving yesterday's paper) that although front-page news about efforts to save the library is good for the community, it is bad for attracting new businesses into the city because they may get the impression that the city is broke and going bankrupt. He recommended that these issues be dealt with as quietly as possible.

At the council meeting, he addressed the comments (said during the task force meeting) of a "near hysterical" lady whom he assumed was staff by reaffirming that each of the council members present at the dais is doing a great job for the city.

On the other side, it seems the information given to the library board/council regarding the number of parcels within the city is incorrect (and is much lower). There was also reluctance by the city manager to commit to library funding in the future, given the city's financial situation.

Addressing a resident's comment comparing shutting down the library to burning the library in Alexandria, Councilmember Atchley noted that while the one in Alexandria was unique, the Pomona Library is not, and that people have the option of going to the other adjacent libraries in the area or purchasing their own books.

Erin said...

How Hysterical, that's me... I own it. :)

John Clifford said...

So councilman atcheley thinks that the solution is for everyone to go out and buy their own books. A nice thing to say in a community where we're always told that we can't get retailers because we don't have a high enough per capita income.

What a "Let them eat cake moment."

Actually, I have a personal library of well over 1000 titles (between my wife and I), but we still use some library services. What will be lost is more than books. It's the history of our community. The library is the repository of our history.

What's going to happen when city staff needs to do a report on historic buildings? Who is going to look up the old city directories, the old newspapers dating back to the 1890s? If staff understands how to do it, they'll still be taking resources (time) that will increase their costs as well.

Of course, if you're concerned that the current history be lost, then I guess closing the library is a good idea.

Also, the guy with the newspaper was planning commissioner Ken Cobel. He had some good ideas on how to bring in a cafe for the library. However, I certainly don't agree that ANYTHING to do with city government be done "under wraps." The light of day is the best disinfectant, it may sting a bit, but we're healthier in the long run.

Also Erin said...

Well said, John.

I think Atcheley's comment highlights the necessity for a media/educational campaign of what services a library brings to a community beyond the mere checking out of books. It needs to include more than just information about the library, but what librarians actually do and their worth to a library and community. In the meeting yesterday, I was appalled to hear librarians equated to grocery store check out clerks, and the librarians who don't work directly with the public devalued (they are the ones who make the resources findable!).

calwatch said...

Like I said in the library series, a lot of people in Pomona don't use the library, especially voters in Phillips Ranch and North Pomona. The inner city residents in South Pomona who take their kids to the library can't or don't vote.

For Councilman Atchley, he was trying to dial down the level of hysteria that he and others like Kenny Coble (an Atchley appointee) feel is going on about the library. The choice of words made, and the belittling of the concerns, was unfortunate, but they genuinely feel that the sober discussion will work better than "a vote to close the library is like a vote to burn books" (Troy, MI's library tax campaign).

For Steve Atchley, it's just as easy, and probably a little faster, to drive up White Avenue to La Verne's library than it is to go to Pomona. With the County system, you can get that popular book a lot faster, since they can pull the copy that's in Malibu or Lancaster and send it to you for pickup in a few days, instead of waiting for the next copy to be returned. The same goes for people in Phillips Ranch, especially since Diamond Bar will have a great library opening up next to AQMD. (The anti-tax Troy folks made the same argument, saying that there were multiple libraries surrounding Troy.) What you have to sell to the voters of North Pomona and Phillips Ranch is the local history, the special collections, the accessibility to disadvantaged youth. The kids in South Pomona can just as easily take the bus to Claremont or La Verne, but why should they? If I want to read an EIR, why would Claremont be the depository for that? Those are what needs to be brought out.

John Clifford said...

I agree with your assessment of the answer regarding the libraries in the surrounding communitys. The answer can't be to let someone else take responsibility for our city's needs. Yes, there are areas at the edges of the city where the next city's library is more "convenient." So we should let Claremont, La Vern, Diamond Bar, etc. provide our library services? I'm sure that their taxpayers would be thrilled with that idea.

And how many people are going to be willing to purchase a home in a city of 150,000 without a library? Sorry Cal, but to my mind it's just way to easy to dismiss a problem by saying someone else will fill our gap.

Sober conversation has been going on for several years about the library and police and it has gotten us nowhere. If Atchley and Coble are really concerned about the tenor of the rhetoric, they should have come up with solutions well before it got to this state.

FYI, the task force watched the Troy campaign video and it was the overwhelming sentiment that while it worked there, we want to take a more positive approach. Hopefully we won't be fighting the kind of Tea Party opposition that Troy was dealing with.