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Burbank could continue transferring portion of electricity sales to General Fund

Burbank should be able to continue its practice of moving funds from Burbank Water and Power to the city’s General Fund, according to election results Tuesday night.

The Los Angeles County Registrar’s office counted 10,176 votes, or about 79.8%, in favor of Measure T, which would allow the city to continue transferring a portion of the city utility’s gross sales of electricity to the General Fund to help pay for lighting-infrastructure maintenance and other costs.

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On the other hand, there were 2,566 votes, roughly 20.1%, that voted against the ballot measure.

The ballot measure amends the city charter to state that the practice of moving those funds has been approved by voters in the past.

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The ability to transfer up to 7% of electric sales to the General Fund has been somewhat of a contentious issue. Several residents have labeled the ballot measure as another tax to gouge more money from the community.

However, city officials have said Measure T is not a new tax and would allow the city to continue a practice that has been done since 1958.

Burbank resident Christopher Spencer saw the practice in a different light and sued the city in 2016, alleging the transfer was illegal and violated Propositions 26 and 218.

Those state propositions were approved by voters to prevent hidden taxes and require a super-majority vote on new taxes and fees.

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In September 2017, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel ruled in favor of Spencer and recommended that Burbank officials clarify in the city’s charter that the practice of transferring electricity funds had already gained voter approval.

Should Measure T had failed, it would have meant Burbank would not have been able to transfer $12.5 million of the gross electric sales to the General Fund and would have significantly increase the city’s projected deficit to about $12.4 million during the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year.

Additionally, city officials have said they would continue appealing the September court ruling.

With the ballot measure garnering enough support, the deficit is expected to be about $200,000 during the next fiscal year.

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