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Burbank considers 3 ballot measures that would amend its city charter

The Burbank City Council is looking to bring ballot measures before local voters in June, which, if they're approved, would make three modifications to the city charter.

City Clerk Zizette Mullins and City Atty. Amy Albano said during a study session on Tuesday that two of the proposed charter amendments deal with when the election of city officials would be held, while the other would change the charter to address a lawsuit related to the transfer of electric sales to the city's General Fund.

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City staff members will be working on the language for the three ballot measures over the following weeks and are aiming to bring the finalized versions to the City Council early next month, Mullins said.

The first proposed amendment is tied to the council's Sept. 24 decision to align the city's election cycle with the state's dates to adhere with SB 415, which is designed to increase voter turnout. Council members also approved during that meeting to do away with its primary election as a way to save money.

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Should voters approve this ballot measure in June, Mullins said, the first municipal election would be held during the November 2020 state general election.

Additionally, those council members whose terms expire in April 2019 — Mayor Will Rogers and Vice Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy — would have their terms extended by one year and seven months, when the November 2020 election will be held.

City officials whose terms end in April 2021 — Council Members Sharon Springer, Bob Frutos and Jess Talamantes, City Clerk Mullins and City Treasurer Debbie Kukta — would remain in office until the November 2022 election, which is also an extension of one year and seven months, Mullins said.

Council members opted to align the city's election with the state's not only to be in line with state law, but to cut costs. Should the city choose to continue having a primary and general election in April, the cost is estimated to be around $1.6 million, Mullins said.

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The city clerk added that because the election would be moved to November, the council would have to later decide when to hold its reorganization meeting.

Along with the city election changes, the second proposed charter amendment would remove a section regarding the Burbank Unified School District.

Also during the its discussion in September, the City Council decided to continue including the school district's board member elections with the city election, but would require the district pay for its portion of the election.

Mullins said the city received an email from Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill on Nov. 30, requesting the school district be removed from the city charter.

Albano said this proposed charter change is focused on allowing the school district to conduct its own election for its board members and nothing else.

"The real effect to this is that the school district will no longer be governed by the charter for its elections," she said.

The other proposed charter amendment deals with a recent lawsuit the city was involved in regarding its transfer of a percentage of funds from the city's utility to its General Fund.

Albano said she thinks the proposed change would reverse a court decision made in September that was in favor of Burbank resident Christopher Spencer, who alleged the city was violating Proposition 26, which was approved by voters in 2010 and is geared toward preventing hidden taxes by requiring a supermajority vote on new taxes and fees.

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The city plans to appeal the ruling, Albano said.

The provision in Burbank's charter that allows the city to transfer up to 7% of Burbank Water and Power's gross sales of electricity from ratepayers to the General Fund was approved by local voters in 1958.

Burbank voters had approved an amendment to that provision in 2007, but the court decision in September determined that the voter-approval requirements set by Propositions 26 and 218, a similar ballot measure, were not met because the charter provision did not explicitly allow the city to continue transferring those funds, Albano said.

To rectify the court decision, the proposed charter amendment would add history about the provision and the recent court decision, and would explicitly allow Burbank to continue transferring funds from the city's utility to its General Fund.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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