New Los Angeles County Tax
Los Angeles County residents, shoppers and visitors may have noticed a half-cent sales tax increase beginning July 1, as a result of voter-approved Measure M. The countywide sales and use tax rate is now 9.25%. The increase goes toward major transportation projects including road and transit upkeep. Measure M was approved by 71% of all registered voters in Los Angeles County in November. It supplies $120 billion to Metro, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, over 40 years.
The increase applies to every city and unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, according to California’s Board of Equalization. Some cities, however, will see higher rates because of special district taxes. The sales tax increase enacted by the passage of Measure M, the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, proposes to improve freeway traffic flow and safety, repair streets and sidewalks, synchronize traffic signals, earthquake-retrofit bridges, expand public transit systems, create jobs, and keep fares affordable for seniors, students and the disabled.
• Cities that have a 9.25% sales tax: Alhambra, Arcadia, Artesia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Beverly Hills, Bradbury, Burbank, Calabasas, Carson, Cerritos, City of Industry, Claremont, Covina, Cudahy, Diamond Bar, Duarte, El Segundo, Gardena, Glendale, Glendora, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Hidden Hills, Huntington Park, Irwindale, La Cañada-Flintridge, La Habra Heights, La Puente, La Verne, Lakewood, Lancaster, Lawndale, Lomita, Los Angeles, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Maywood, Monrovia, Montebello, Monterey Park, Norwalk, Palmdale, Palos Verdes Estates, Paramount, Pasadena, Pomona, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Rosemead, San Dimas, San Gabriel, San Marino, Santa Clarita, Santa Fe Springs, Sierra Madre, Signal Hill, South Pasadena, Temple City, Torrance, Vernon, View Park, Walnut, West Covina, West Hollywood, Westlake Village and Whittier.
• Cities that will have a 9.75 percent sales tax: Downey, El Monte, Inglewood and San Fernando.
• Cities that will have a 10.25 percent sales tax: Compton, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pico Rivera, Santa Monica and South Gate.
The Baldwin Park City Council approved an employment agreement with Gustavo Romo, the Community Development Director for the City of Irwindale, to be Baldwin Park’s new community development director. Romo, 47, will make an annual base salary of $142,909.32. He starts July 10. The city has been without a community development department head since the City Council fired former Community Development Director Marc Castagnola without cause in February 2016. Romo, a graduate of Sierra Vista High School, has been with the city of Irwindale for four years. Romo has a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Cal Poly Pomona and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Redlands. He also has worked in the city of Calimesa in Riverside County. Romo said he was looking forward to the opportunity to manage a larger department. The city of Baldwin Park has a population of about 78,000 while Irwindale has fewer than 2,000 residents. He lives in Rancho Cucamonga.
The City Council hired Dan Fox, 52, former assistant city manager of the city of Laguna Niguel, to replace City Manager Jim DeStefano, who retired, effective July 7. Fox started on July 10, and is the 28-year-old city’s fifth city manager since incorporating in April 1989. Fox acknowledged he has aspired to be a city manager and sees this job as a good fit. Since DeStefano, 64, alerted the city in the spring that he would be retiring at the end of this fiscal year, the city received 67 applications for the position. The City Council, with the help of DeStefano, narrowed down the list of candidates and eventually picked Fox, who has 30 years of experience in local government, but never as a city manager. The council liked the fact that Fox worked for cities that negotiate contracts for public safety and other services, as Diamond Bar does. Also, Fox is knowledgeable of the area since he had worked as community development director for Walnut from 2004 to 2009, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona. Fox will be paid a yearly salary of $210,000. He earned $179,745 in regular pay in 2016 in Laguna Niguel. In addition to his base salary, Fox will receive a $500 per month car allowance, 40 hours of sick leave and 40 hours of vacation, plus a lump sum $7,500 payment of deferred compensation in 2017-2018 that increases to $15,000 the following year, according to city records. DeStefano was earning $224,011 in regular pay for a total of pay and benefits equaling $301,315.
The city’s new Arboretum and Botanic Garden, at 201 W. Gladstone Ave., is mostly done with some larger trees and plants already planted, and volunteers are helping by planting more native plants and trees in the two-acre space. Volunteers can help one of three ways:
- Donate a plant or tree that represents Glendora’s history. Donors will have their name and quote of choice displayed by the plant or tree donated
- Visit Glendora Gardens or Armstrong Garden Center, choose a plant/tree from the Glendora Arboretum Registry, fill out the donor card, and go plant it in the Arboretum.
- Volunteer to help plant.
In 2015, community leaders and officials decided to turn the empty blighted field into an arboretum for the entire community to enjoy. At this point, the project has received more than $60,000 in donations from local businesses and the community.
The Arboretum includes an ADA-accessible maze, public art, picnic tables, drinking fountain, flagstone paths and educational markers with information on the more than 70 different species of trees and more than 50 species of plants native to Glendora, that are also drought tolerant. To volunteer, visit the City Hall, Community Services Department at 116 E. Foothill Blvd., or go online at www.cityofglendora.org/register and search the keyword “volunteer.” For more information, call 626-914-8228.
Capt. Ty Henshaw has been hired as the new Irwindale Police Chief. He replaces outgoing Chief Anthony Miranda, who is leaving the department to serve as Chief of Police in Vernon. Henshaw has been a captain at the Irwindale Police Department since 2014, officials said. He began his law enforcement career with the Bell Police Department, where he rose through the ranks to ultimately become interim police chief. Henshaw, 45, lives in Chino Hills with his family. The incoming chief earned a Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration from Cal State Long Beach, as well as Master of Public Administration from Cal State Northridge. He is a state board member for the California Peace Officers’ Association and formerly served as the Region Chair for the CPOA’s Los Angeles Chapter. Henshaw also serves as a professor at Cerritos College in Norwalk, where he teaches in the Administration of Justice Department.
As part of a multiyear process, city leaders are hoping residents from across La Verne will help craft the blueprint to guide development in the city for the coming 20 years. Cities typically update their general plans every 10 to 20 years. La Verne last updated its general plan document in 1998. Preparing a general plan, the document that details what can be built where, involves envisioning the future and charting the course. The existing general plan was developed at time when the city was preparing for the 210 Freeway to extend into the region, for the challenges that would bring and its effects on major thoroughfares, such as Foothill Boulevard. The next general plan will have to consider the expansion of Metro’s Gold Line light rail service into the city, the growth of ride-sharing and the advent of self-driving cars. The update of the general plan will allow the city to contemplate development around the Gold Line station, which will be in the area north of Arrow Highway and east of E Street, near the University of La Verne and Fairplex. The northern 10-1/2 acres of Fairplex are within La Verne city limits. Active transportation, which involves walking, bicycling and other means of human-powered transportation, will also be part of the plan. La Verne residents are relying less on cars, opting for other means to get around town. This means that in the future, the city will need more than bike lanes. Developers will have to find ways of integrating human-powered transportation when creating plans for a new development. Other elements that will be considered will be the city’s corridors and mixing commercial and residential development as the retail industry changes. To encourage as much public participation as possible, the city will use different approaches, including taking to social media and having a presence at various community events in the city. City administrators are close to determining which consulting firm they will recommend that City Council members hire for the project. Staff members put out a call for proposals and got responses from more than a dozen California-based consulting firms. Four of the firms went on to submit formal proposals, which is a decent number given the project is going to involve a two- to three-year commitment.
Montclair’s proposed $28.8 million operating budget for the 2017-18 year is up $678,078 from last year’s general fund budget of $28.1 million. General operating fund revenue is expected to rise to $28.6 million in the coming year, up from $27.9 million in 2016-17. The city believes the bump is due to a better economy leading to more sales and property tax revenue, along with new business licenses and other fees. Licenses and fees from development in North Montclair are also expected to generate additional revenue. But even that increased revenue leaves a deficit of $154,126 for the coming fiscal year. To close the gap, the city will transfer $264,000 from the gas tax and traffic safety funds, The City will have continued fiscal discipline to get the city to its goal of having rainy-day cash on hand equal to 25 percent of the general operating fund. In fiscal year 2016-17, the fund is up to $6 million, or 21.37 percent of the general operating fund. For this year, which began July 1, the proposed budget forecasts the reserve will grow to 21.4 percent. To reach that 25 percent goal, the council and city management will exercise a mix of fiscal restraint, cost-cutting measures and revenue enhancement measures. Among his suggestions are shifting general fund expenses to other funds capable of covering the costs, further reductions in full-time personnel, and requiring employees to pay for a portion of their pensions under CalPERS, the public employee retirement plan. Since 2007-08, the city has gone from 231 full-time employees to 172 full-time and 12 part-time employees in the preliminary budget. There are no additional cuts in staff called for in the proposed budget for next year.
The City of Ontario has a balanced budget. The proposed budget projects that the city will bring in 4.6 percent more revenue in the coming fiscal year. For fiscal year 2017-18, Ontario’s proposed budget includes $229 million in general fund expenses and an overall budget of $524 million. The general fund pays for staffer salaries, among other items. The proposed general fund budget of $228.7 million is down from the 2016-17 actual general fund expenses of $235.4 million. Expected general fund revenue is identical to its planned expenditures. Sales tax revenue, which had been growing, is expected to flatten out or decline slightly in the coming year. In addition to capital improvement projects carried over from previous years, the city plans to spend $18.9 million on paving during 2017-18, including:
- Sixth Street between Glenn Avenue and Cucamonga Creek Channel
- Baker Street between Sixth and Seventh streets
- Vineyard Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets
- Chino Avenue between Grove and Ontario avenues
- Schaefer Avenue between Euclid and Vineyard avenues
- Eucalyptus Avenue between Euclid and Grove avenues
- Bon View Avenue between Edison and Merrill avenues
- Walker Avenue between Riverside Drive and Eucalyptus Avenue
- Inland Empire Boulevard between Turner and Haven avenues
- Improvements to the Fourth Street Bridge at the 10 Freeway undercrossing
- The 10 Freeway and Vineyard Avenue interchange
- The 10 Freeway and Euclid Avenue interchange
- Undergrounding utilities along Holt Boulevard between Benson and San Antonio Avenues
The city expects to increase its total number of full-time positions by 10, to 1,207 employees in the coming year. The city expects to hire 23 new staff members, including a new office specialist and management analyst for the police department, a new management analyst and dispatcher for the fire department, and new employees for the municipal utilities company, development, community and public services, housing and municipal services, and city administration departments. Partially offsetting this will be 13 full-time positions being cut, including cuts in police and fire department office staff, development, community and public services, housing and municipal services and city administration. The proposed budget is viewable by the public who stop by Ontario City Hall during business hours. It’s broken up into three documents: a 124-page summary, a more detailed 314-page document and a 158-page book looking at the city’s planned capital improvement projects, such as street paving and storm drains.
Finding $1.2 million in cuts, City Council members approved a balanced budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year and talked of how to prepare for city’s needs in the next five to 10 years.
Pomona council members approved the city’s budget which includes $94.6 million for the general fund, used to pay for most city services such as police, fire, parks and library services. After approving the budget, Mayor Tim Sandoval asked Onyx Jones, the city’s finance director, to move forward with the concept of having a financial expert look at the city’s finances and plan for the long term. To balance this year’s budget, city departments streamlined costs resulting in a combined total of $1.2 million in cuts. The budget also contains an addendum with a series of requests that are considered priority projects if future funding comes in.
Here are several major unfunded requests:
- The Police Department wants to purchase 12 police vehicles, at a projected cost of $641,286
- The Neighborhood Services Department asked for $82,500 to purchase computers for the city’s recreation sites
- Public Works requested $60,000 to pay for the removal of a series of diseased liquidambar trees and others that represent a hazard
- The City Clerk’s Office requested $15,500 for equipment needed to livestream City Council meetings
Ongoing budget constraints have resulted in the postponement of some repairs and renovations along with other needs, according to staff.
The repairs waiting list:
- The list includes a need for funds for additional police resources, recreation program funding, for library hours and staff and a full time recreation coordinator for senior programs.
• Funds are also required to carry out park restroom renovations, pool refurbishment, to renovate City Hall’s air conditioning system and to fund improvements for the city’s main corridors.
• Dollars are also needed to replace the artificial turf at Veterans Park.
The Pension Squeeze
A key financial issue in the coming years will be costs associated with increases the city’s share of employer contributions to retirement expenses. The increased costs are expected to range from a low of $1.1 million to a high of $3.1 million annually. With the help of an outside financial expert, the various unfunded projects and financial commitments can be studied, along with crafting strategies on how best to meet those expenses. Also, a financial consultant can help the city plan for the next five to 10 years, with options that may range from accomplishing the minimum repairs to carrying out projects and still setting aside money for future maintenance needs.
The 2017-18 fiscal budget includes more money for police, street improvements and new street lighting. The $80.7 million proposed general fund budget also includes a little more than $235,000 in personnel changes as well as reclassification of employee positions—adding seven full-time posts but reducing three part-time positions. The city’s $37 million budget for public safety is up $1.75 million from last year because of increases in pension and labor costs at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. But it also includes the addition of one sergeant and one service specialist. The proposed budget sets aside significant funds for major capital improvement such as:
- Installation of $3.9 million Cucamonga Storm Drain Upper Phase 3
- Construction of $2.1 million Public Works Services warehouse at the Corporate Yard
- Purchase of city street lights from Southern California Edison ($9.7 million) and retrofit of lights to LED ($4.1 million)
The budget also sets aside more than $10 million in transportation-related infrastructure projects, such as street overlay and slurry, and improvements to meet federal accessibility laws. It also includes the following pavement rehabilitation projects:
- Foothill Boulevard from Haven to Milliken Avenue
- Hermosa Avenue from Arrow Route to Foothill Boulevard
- Jersey Street from Haven Avenue to Rochester Avenue
- Sixth Street from Milliken Avenue to Charles Smith Avenue
- Hermosa Avenue from north of Foothill Boulevard to Church Street, the project also includes street widening
SOUTH EL MONTE
Longtime City Councilman Joseph Gonzales, announced he will not seek re-election in November 2018. The announcement comes about three months after Gonzales lost a special election for mayor to Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Olmos. The election was held to fill former Mayor Luis Aguinaga’s seat after he resigned in 2016 when FBI investigators alleged that he took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a city contractor. Gonzales’ announcement came the same day the City Council voted to remove the interim tag from City Manager Jennifer Vasquez’s title. Vasquez replaced former City Manager Anthony Ybarra, who also resigned after the bribery scheme was revealed. Ybarra was not charged with any wrongdoing, but a state audit questioned his lax approval of city contracts that left South El Monte open to fraud. Amid the multiple scandals, Gonzales had developed a reputation for acting as a watchdog while on the City Council, and often found himself opposing votes formerly supporting Aguinaga, who is set to report by Friday to the U.S. Marshals Service to begin serving his one-year prison sentence. Most recently Gonzales has found himself on the end of 3-1 votes, opposite Olmos and married council members Hector Delgado and Angelica Garcia. Gonzales has been critical of Delgado and Garcia for serving on the council together and voting together as a block.
A state audit of the city’s finances raised questions about spending by Ybarra, former Councilman Wilhans Ili, Delgado and Garcia, including unusually expensive hotel stays and bar tabs, as well as the purchases of several thousand dollars’ worth of Apple electronics. Gonzales voted along with the rest of the council in unanimously approving Vasquez’s new contract as city manager. He previously had been critical of her for being part of the city management team while Aguinaga and Ybarra approved payments for contracts without documentation of work done and often without council approval. A forensic audit released a year ago found that the city’s lax financial oversight practices had allowed two contract consultants, Arroyo Strategy Group and ECM Group Inc., to potentially defraud the city. The audit showed that Ybarra executed four contracts—three with Arroyo Strategy Group for a total payout of $110,000, and the other with ECM Group Inc. for $29,376—without receiving City Council approval. Vaquez’s contract has a base salary of $180,000 over a three-year term, with maximum cost of living increases of 3 percent in the second and third years.
It’s official, a local ordinance which prohibits a variety of marijuana uses in Upland has passed.
The Upland City Council certified the results in Upland’s June 6 special election for Measure E, which will now make it illegal for a business to cultivate, dispense, transport (by an unlicensed company), distribute, manufacture, process, labels or test marijuana. The San Bernardino County of Registrar of Voters released the certified result. The figures show 7,562 voters—representing 73 percent—were in support. A total of 10,367 votes were cast, of those 7,857 were by mail-in ballots, according to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters.
The City Council voted to authorize the sale of the 2-acre parcel to Singpoli Group LLC. The small piece of empty land, known as the AAA pad, is located at the corner of Azusa Avenue and Giambi Lane next to Big League Dreams. Singpoli offered $900,000 to buy the property from the agency overseeing the city’s former redevelopment agency. Under requirements for the dissolved redevelopment agencies in California, the proceeds would be split among the various taxing agencies; the city would get about $144,000. The potential sale comes as Singpoli and the city negotiate the development of an outdoor recreational park on another part of the landfill. In December, Singpoli and the city entered an exclusive negotiating agreement for the sale of three parcels and the lease of a fourth totaling about 200 acres for the project.
In other news, the West Covina City Council adopted a balanced operating budget with a slight surplus for the next year. Approved in a 3-2 vote, the operating and capital improvement budget estimates about $121.4 million in revenues and $116.2 million in expenditures for the fiscal year that began July 1. The general fund budget, which covers the city’s day-to-day operations, estimates approximately $62.2 million in revenues and expenditures with surplus of about $55,219. The adoption comes after staff’s preliminary estimates showed a projected $6.1 million gap in the general fund due to increases in pension costs, increased costs for personnel and supplies, the elimination of 3 percent salary savings across departments and the loss of a federal public safety grant that funded firefighter jobs.
Over the last few weeks, city officials managed to close the gap through the elimination of some special events, annual vehicle replacement funding, the city aquatics program and other items. Revenue projections were increased through the addition of dog license canvassing and sharing crossing guard costs with the school districts. Although the city managed to avoid layoffs this year, the budget does include the elimination of 13 vacant positions in various departments. The police department also cut $1.2 million from its budget through managed salary savings from vacant positions. Mayor Corey Warshaw who, along with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Spence, voted against adopting the budget, said the city is still spending too much on police and fire, adding that the costs for public safety are only going to grow due to the rising pension costs. Other challenges the city will face in coming years are the increasing costs of aging infrastructure and vehicles and the flattening out of sales taxes, which makes up about 27 percent of general fund revenues. While property tax revenues are projected to increase by about 6.2 percent in the new fiscal year, sales tax revenues are projected to increase by just 1.5 percent.
The West Covina City Council adopted a complete ban on smoking in parks, joining more than 200 other California cities with smoke-free park laws on the books. The council voted 3-2 to move forward with an ordinance prohibiting smoking in public parks and places, and direct staff to post no-smoking signs in all 16 city parks. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Spence and Councilman Tony Wu voted no. When council members initially adopted the no smoking ordinance in March, they did so with the caveat that they would be able to create smoking areas. But due to existing state laws prohibiting smoking near playgrounds and youth sports facilities, city staff recommended the council adopt a complete ban. State law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and within 250 feet of youth sporting events. Those who voted in favor of the ban said prohibiting smoking in parks altogether would ensure better enforcement of those state laws and others prohibiting smoking marijuana in public.