Open Season on Angelenos?
By Jack Humphreville, L.A. Watchdog for CityWatch
Yet despite these record revenues, the City and other insiders are considering ballot measures and fee increases that cost us over $1 billion a year.
In May, United to House LA announced that it delivered about 100,000 signatures to the City Clerk to qualify a measure for the November ballot that will create the Los Angeles Program to Prevent Homelessness and Fund Affordable Housing. The proponents expect this Flip Tax to raise over $800 million a year by levying a 4% tax on sales of commercial and residential properties over $5 million, and 5.5% on sales north of $10 million. These funds would be used to “provide immediate support to people experiencing homelessness, and those at risk of homelessness, in the form of rental assistance, emergency income support, and access to permanent housing.”
The City is once again considering placing a Vacancy Tax on the ballot. This tax would raise as much as $128 million by assessing fees on vacant apartments and residential properties owned by corporate landlords, commercial properties, and vacant lots. As of now, the details need to be determined because there are many exemptions and variables that impact the net proceeds from this tax.
The [City of Los Angeles’] Department of Recreation and Parks is the beginning stage of considering a $2.1 billion bond measure to finance the repair and improvement of our parks that have been neglected by the City over the past three decades. If approved by the voters, Angelenos, most likely property owners, would need to pony up an average of about $150 million for the next thirty years. The Department of Recreation and Parks is also considering placing on the November ballot a parcel tax that would raise $60 million a year to fund the department’s childcare programs. Again, the details need to be worked out, but not later than June 21, the deadline to place measures on the ballot.
Over the next year, we can expect an increase in our trash collection fees of close to $100 million because of the new composting initiative and the City’s goal to be reimbursed by this special revenue fund for all related costs such as pension and medical benefits. We can also expect another increase in our sewer fees that have been escalating by 6.5% a year over the past seven years. In addition, we can expect significant increases in our Department of Water &Power bills as the Mayor and the City Council have very ambitious plans without any regard for Ratepayers who will be footing the bill. A double or tripling of rates are in the future.
Longer term, the City will need to spend upwards of $10 billion to repair our streets and sidewalks, refurbish our parks, implement flood control improvements, modernize its management control systems and digital infrastructure, and develop the Civic Center in Downtown Los Angeles. And guess who pays for this neglect?
Before we consider approving any ballot measures, the City Hall must develop a long-term financial and operating plan so that Angelenos have a better understanding of where our tax dollars are going and whether they are being used efficiently. This is a reasonable request, especially for a $12 billion enterprise with over 30,000 employees. Ignore it at your peril because City Hall must earn the votes of Angelenos.
This editorial was reprinted with permission from its author and CityWatch. Jack Humphreville writes L.A. Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is also a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.