Photo by John Schreiber.
Glendale skyline. Photo by John Schreiber.

Glendale city officials were celebrating Wednesday the overwhelming rejection of a proposal that would have eliminated the city’s Utility Users Tax, which municipal leaders defended as crucial to maintaining vital services.

Measure N was placed on the ballot through an initiative. It would have eliminated the 7 percent Utility Users Tax on water, gas and electricity service. City officials said the tax generates about $17.5 million a year and represents the third-largest source of revenue for the city’s general fund, behind property and sales taxes.

City elected officials vocally urged voters to reject the initiative, saying it would result in across-the-board budget cuts, including the possible elimination of 53 police officers and 37 firefighters.

Mayor Ara Najarian and City Council members Paula Devine, Laura Friedman, Vartan Gharpetian and Zareh Sinanyan signed a ballot argument against the measure, calling it “misguided and poorly written” by a an out-of-town group bent on eliminating utility taxes in multiple cities.

“They don’t understand Glendale’s needs or how Measure N will hurt Glendale. Don’t believe their lies about out-of-control budgets and pensions,” says the ballot argument.

Supporters William Taliaferro and John Voors countered in their argument that the city’s budget has grown exponentially in the last 15 years due largely to the council giving in to salary demands of public employee unions.

“In 2014 the median full-time city employee received pay and benefits totaling $105,211,” they wrote in their ballot argument. “Government elites enjoy pay, pensions and job security the average taxpayer can only dream about.”

They also claimed the city’s “unfunded pension obligations are officially $411.9 million” but said a recent report estimated the real amount could more than triple that number.

In Carson, voters approved Measure C, which will extend the city’s 2 percent Utility Users Tax on electricity and gas for another seven years, to June 30, 2023. The tax raises roughly $8 million a year.

In Compton, voters appeared to have defeated Measure P, which would have increased the sales tax by 1 percent to provide funding for public safety, youth job training, gang- and drug-prevention programs, economic development and park improvements. With all precincts reporting, the measure was defeated by 102 votes, out of more than 10,000 cast. It was unclear if late and provisional ballots in the city were still waiting to be counted and whether they might affect the outcome.

Mayor Aja Brown said the proposal would have raised $7 million a year and generate funds that would be used for public purposes such as re-paving every street in the city.

Measure Y in Pomona, meanwhile, would have authorized the installation of as many as 10 freeway-adjacent billboards, but it was shot down by voters. Over the 40-year life of the agreement, the city would have received $1 million for each billboard, or a total of up to $10 million.

—City News Service

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