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Burbank City Council fine tunes ballot questions ahead of election

Burbank City Council fine tunes ballot questions ahead of election
The Burbank City Council is considering holding a special election in June to make three changes to the city charter. (File Photo)

Burbank residents may soon have three ballot measures to consider during a special election in June.

The Burbank City Council worked with city staff to hash out the final details of three proposed ballot measures during a meeting on Tuesday. Vice Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy was absent.

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Each of the ballot measures, if approved by voters, would make modifications to the city charter. One of the proposed charter amendments would address a lawsuit involving the transfer of retail electric sales to the city's General Fund, while the other two amendments would make changes to elections.

The City Council will decide whether to call the election during its meeting on Tuesday.

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City Atty. Amy Albano walked the City Council through the language of each of the proposed ballot measures and the changes that would be made to the city charter.

She prefaced to council members that each ballot question can only be up to 75 words long and needs to be clear and unbiased.

Albano first went over the language for the proposed measure related to the transfer of electric sales, which she said should reverse a court ruling made in September.

In that court decision, a judge ruled in favor of Burbank resident Christopher Spencer, who alleged the city was violating Proposition 26, a state law approved by voters in 2010 that attempts to prevent hidden taxes by requiring a supermajority vote on new taxes and fees.

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However, a ballot measure passed by Burbank voters in 1958 has allowed the city to transfer up to 7% of Burbank Water and Power's gross sales of electricity from retail rate payers to the General Fund.

In 2007, local voters approved an amendment to that provision, but the court decision in September determined that the amendment did not meet the voter-approval requirements set by Propositions 26 and 218, a similar state measure, because the charter provision did not explicitly allow Burbank to continue making the transfers.

The proposed ballot measure question for this issue would ask voters if the city should continue its past practice of transferring no more than 7% of the city's utility gross annual sales of electricity to the General Fund, which would provide the city with about $12.5 million a year to maintain its lighting infrastructure.

This proposed charter amendment has been a critical issue for the city because of its impact on the city budget. Because of the court decision, city finance officials have told the City Council that the systemic budget deficit Burbank is facing over the next five years would greatly increase if the electric fund transfers were to end.

The next proposed ballot measure will ask Burbank voters if the city should realign its election with the state general election to coincide with state SB 415, which was designed to increase voter turnout.

The proposed change to the city charter would also eliminate the city's primary election, which is proposed as a cost-saving effort.

Should voters approve this ballot measure, it would extend the terms for each current council member, City Clerk Zizette Mullins and City Treasurer Debbie Kukta by one year and eight months.

Additionally, the next municipal election would be held during the November 2020 state general election.

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The language for this ballot measure would state that it would change the city's elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years to coincide with state and federal elections. It would also tell voters that supporting the measure would eliminate the primary election and extend each elected official's term by one year and eight months to transition the city to elections on even-numbered years.

The third ballot measure also deals with elections but for the Burbank Unified School District. The proposed measure would ask if the city should make the school board election subject to state law instead of being organized by the city.

This had initially been a part of the second proposed ballot measure, but the City Council decided to make it its own provision to avoid confusion among voters.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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