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LA HABRA : Group Is Seeking Repeal of Utility Tax

A group of residents calling themselves La Habra ACT (Against City Tax) has formed to demand that the City Council repeal the city’s 6% utility tax.

“We are not going to be content until the utility tax is repealed,” said Merceline La Porte, a spokeswoman for the group. “We do not like it, and we do not want it.”

The newly formed group plans to “educate residents and business owners about this unjust tax,” said La Porte, 65, a local real estate broker. She said the group will plot a strategy to persuade council members to repeal the tax.

“Whether the council will cave in to our demands, I don’t know. . . . If they don’t, we will recall. Everyone who voted for the tax: Honey, goodby.”

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She said ACT may begin a signature-collecting campaign to put the matter on the ballot so people will have a chance to vote on whether they want to keep the tax or kill it.

“I’ve paid this tax, and I’ve hated every minute of it,” La Porte said.

City Manager Lee Risner said: “If repealing the tax is what the people want, then it will be done, and my advise to anyone who owns property in town is to sell and move elsewhere, because La Habra will not be the kind of community that everybody wants.”

In late 1992, council members voted for the tax, which took effect in May, 1993, in order to avoid cuts in the police and fire departments.

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The tax, which raises $3.7 million in revenue each year, makes up about 30% of the city’s general fund. To repeal it would mean laying off at least 11 of the city’s 33 firefighters, 30 of the Police Department’s 73 officers and many other city employees, Risner said.

In addition, the city could close down all parks, he said.

“If people want a community that’s livable, that does not have declining property values, and if they want to increase safety, they cannot eliminate the utility tax,” Risner added. “It’s that simple.”

La Porte said she may ask residents and business owners to protest the tax by refusing to pay it. But for now ACT members intend to attend City Council meetings to voice their opposition to the tax.

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