EDITORIAL - Tax Hikes Face Culver Residents Next Week
November 1, 2018
Next week the voters will face an array of state and local positions including state propositions and three local issues for Culver City voters to decide.
As each party wrestles to take control of the United State House of Representatives and different factions fight over the propositions there are two glaring issues that the public needs to notice.
First, the obscene amount of money both parties are spending to capture congressional seats.
Second, the absolutely misleading ballot designations and campaign claims designed to scare voters into voting one way or the other.
In Culver City the choices are clear. The school district is asking for a parcel tax to help fund school operations and the city is asking for a ¼% increase in the sales tax to fund a shortfall in the city budget.
The Culver City Observer has opted to take no position on either tax increase.
The item to move the Culver City municipal election to coincide with a statewide election we strongly oppose.
In 2012 voters overwhelming passed Measure Y, a ½ increase in the sales tax in Culver City. We were at the depths of a major recession and city revenues were declining.
The city manager’s report in 2012 stated the following: “Measure Y - The City Council is asking voters in Culver City to consider enacting a temporary local sales tax of one-half cent, which would automatically expire after 10 years, in order to provide funding for essential local services at current levels.”
The city’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Muir has already informed the council that the ½ cent “temporary” sales tax increase will need to be made permanent despite selling it to the voters as temporary. Now a new addition to the sales tax is before the voters.
There are several problems with this:
First, the economy is rolling, and unemployment rates are at record lows. Virtually every street in the city has homes being remodeled. This increases sales tax revenues and building fees the city receives. If we can’t support the city expenditures in good times, what do we do when the next recession hits.
Second, look around the city at the number of empty stores. Retailers are bailing on “brick and mortar” stores as consumers move towards buying online. This is increasing at lightening speed. Once the largest retailer in the world, Sears, is in bankruptcy and will probably be liquidated shortly. Retail experts predict that JCPenney will run out of cash next year and also be forced into bankruptcy. While Culver City doesn’t have a Sears, we do have a large JCPenney store in the mall. Westfield Culver City has another anchor store in Macy’s. Macy’s has closed hundreds of stores across the country. The point is for Culver City to hang its hat on sales taxes may well backfire and the estimates of $4.9 million in addition revenue becomes a pipe dream.
Employee costs and salaries are rising at a rapid rate. Overtime is out of control. In departments like the fire and police departments. We believe additional personnel would actually save the city money and should be considered.
According to Transparent California Culver City has over 100 employees earning over $100,000 per year.
Remember back to the battle over Proposition 13 which allowed many people including the elderly to save their homes from rising property and capping those increases at 2% a year? While being debated we can well remember the threats, “If Proposition 13 passes don’t bother calling the police if someone breaks into your home and if you house catches on fire it will burn to the ground before the fire department can get there.”
Guess what, our police still answered the calls with lightning speed and nobody’s house ever burned to the ground because the fire department didn’t arrive.
The tax increases will probably pass, Culver City residents are very supportive of taxes that they perceive to keep out city services at a high level.
The school district’s parcel tax also has issues.
Property values have been rising at a staggering rate.
Since 2011 asset valuations of Culver City properties has risen from $7.39 billion to $10.33 billion, an increase of almost 40%. With property values rising and older homes being sold at much higher prices this rate should increase.
So, what to our schools get?
The tax rate is 1% of asset valuation of which 40% goes to schools. Homes that were protected under Proposition 13 are reassessed when they are sold. This should constitute a windfall for local schools throughout the state.
Finally, moving our city elections to coincide with a statewide election is a very, very bad idea.
While we would like greater participation in municipal elections, how does it help to have more voters, many of which have no idea who they are voting for cast ballots. At least with a separate election in April you have a better chance of having informed voters.
We should add that City Clerk Jeremy Green and her staff do an excellent job of collecting and counting the ballots in the council chambers in front of all viewers who wish to attend and on our cable TV channel. Now that’s transparency!
We agree that people should vote. Hundreds of thousands of men and women gave their lives so we could go into a private booth and vote for the candidates of our choice. Frankly, those who do no vote dishonor their sacrifice.