City to Explore Sales Tax Boost Worth $2.5 Million

La Cañada Flintridge officials decided to appropriate $30,000 for a consultant to consider placing on the ballot a local sales tax measure that could raise approximately $2.5 million each year for the city.
The council voted 5-0 to engage “research survey consultant services” at a joint special meeting on budget matters Tuesday at City Hall.
Councilman Michael Davitt said an ad hoc committee on which he serves with Councilwoman Terry Walker believes the community should have an opportunity to provide more input.
“The revenue was so significant,” Davitt said. “The money stays here. To me, that’s the driver.”
Residents now pay 9.5% in sales taxes, while the maximum sales tax rate in Los Angeles County is capped by state law at 10.25%.
The breakdown of the current sales tax for LCF residents is 6.25% in state charges, a 1% city levy and 2.25% in county or affiliate agencies taxes.
Officials said they anticipate additional sales tax measures from other entities, including L.A. County or the South Coast Air Quality Management District, sometime in the near future.
But cities with their own measures receive first priority for sales tax collection and would take precedence over attempts from other entities, officials said.
Davitt said he was not a “tax person but it’s part of the timing. We can say we can wait, but the problem is you get boxed out” and other organizations can get the money.
Walker said if the city held off to November 2020, it could conflict with a county attempt to put the same measure on a ballot, and if both succeeded it wasn’t clear who would get the money.
“That’s correct,” said City Manager Mark Alexander, who was also on the ad hoc committee. “If the county introduces a sales tax measure, if the vote for the county measure exceeded the city’s, we’re not sure if [LCF’s] would prevail. Particularly if both were going for 0.75%.”
So the city is considering a local 0.75% sales tax increase, possibly as soon as the November 2019 election, which would drive approximately $2.5 million more each year to the coffers, based on calculations derived from similar tax-increase-driven revenue in other, similar-sized cities.
According to a city document, sales tax revenue in fiscal year 2017-18 was more than $2.6 million. General fund revenue in the same time frame was more than $15.1 million. The sales tax revenue makes up 17.6% of the general fund.
With the extra money, the City Council would likely place additional emphasis on public safety and street improvement projects that could include increased Sheriff’s Department patrols and services, according to a city-provided fact sheet. Officials also mentioned enhanced street resurfacing projects, sidewalks, curb and gutter repairs and storm drain improvements.
Councilman Greg Brown asked whether the money raised could be used to pay for the bill for the Sheriff’s Department, but that was not immediately clear, said LCF interim City Attorney Adrian Guerra.
Davitt made the motion, which was seconded by Walker and unanimously approved, to include consulting services in the 2018-19 budget. The funds will be spent on the consultant services instead of the Olberz Park gazebo.
Alexander explained in an email that the gazebo and the consultant would cost the same, and therefore the swap would not cause any adjustments to the midyear budget. He said the gazebo proposal will come before the council again as part of the regular budget process.
In other business during a second, regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday, officials determined that Mayor Leonard Pieroni will participate in the selection of a new Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station captain, with an appointment scheduled for May.
Alexander said Pieroni will serve on a panel that will interview “prospective candidates” for captain; the city manager will then conduct a second interview, officials said.
“No [interview] date has been selected yet, pending the final composition of the panel and their availability,” Alexander said. “However, the plan is still to try to identify a new captain by the first part of May.”
Currently, Lt. Mark Slater is the interim captain for the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station. He was installed after Capt. Chris Blasnek was promoted in late December, becoming a commander assigned to the South Patrol Division. Blasnek replaced Bill Song, who was the station’s captain from May 2013-April 2017 before being promoted to commander in the sheriff’s Technology and Support Division.

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