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Burbank Chamber of Commerce unlikely to offer parcel-tax endorsement until next year

Thomas Flavin
Less than five months from election day, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce has yet to decide on whether or not to endorse Burbank Unified’s proposed parcel-tax measure. If the organization’s executive committee takes a position at all, it likely won’t happen until at least January, said former Burbank Mayor Tom Flavin, the chamber’s chief executive.
(Courtesy of Counterintuity, LLC)

As various organizations in Burbank took sides on last year’s proposed parcel tax for the Burbank Unified School District, otherwise known as Measure QS, one group that was silent on the issue was the city’s chamber of commerce.

The advocacy and resource group, whose goal is to be the city’s No. 1 destination for advice and counsel to Burbank businesses, neither endorsed nor took a stand against the proposed 10-cents-per-square-foot tax that ultimately failed by 938 votes last November. Meanwhile, the chamber did endorse the city’s three-quarter-cent sales tax, known as Measure P, which passed.

Fast forward a year and Burbank Unified has placed another parcel tax, one that would again charge 10 cents per square foot, cost the average homeowner around $170 per year and raise roughly $9.1 million annually, on the March 2020 ballot.

Less than five months from election day, the chamber has yet to make a formal decision on whether or not to endorse the measure, and its officials have said they likely won’t do so until next year, if the organization takes a position at all.

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A decision would be made by the chamber’s executive committee, said Tom Flavin, the chamber’s chief executive officer.

“We’ve obviously had discussions about it, and they’ve taken no public position or no formal position on it,” Flavin said.

The chamber’s last formal board meeting this year was held in October and the earliest the group could decide on the matter, which is up for vote on March 3, is during its next meeting on Jan. 16.

“It looks like, if this matter goes to the board, then it would happen then,” Flavin said.

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Between now and then, the board has a retreat scheduled for Nov. 14, although Flavin said the agenda, as of last week, did not include the proposed parcel tax as an item to be discussed.

Flavin said that, in the run-up to the election, he’s been directed by the executive committee to begin an information campaign for the roughly 5,500 employers in Burbank.

“The only thing I’ve been instructed to do is educate chamber members and nonmembers in the business community about it and that’s what we’re in the process of doing,” said Flavin, who advised those looking for more information to email the chamber at info@burbankchamber.org.

Officials with the chamber and the Burbank Unified School District did exchange proposals this summer in an attempt to find common ground.

The chamber offered Burbank Unified’s board an endorsement and funding for a “Yes” campaign in exchange for the school district’s acceptance of some terms.

Flavin unveiled a plan to board members at a July 20 retreat that called for raising Measure QS’ 10-cents fee to 15 cents, the installation of a $3,000 cap on commercial businesses over 20,000 square feet, not counting their parking lots, and inclusion of a 12-year sunset clause.

Burbank Supt. Matt Hill and staff members recommended a compromise during an Aug. 1 board meeting, agreeing with a 12-year sunset clause, a departure from Measure QS, which had no expiration date, while raising the cap on businesses to $25,000.

Burbank Unified’s board voted 4-0 at that meeting for a proposed parcel tax that included a sunset clause, but rejected all caps, while keeping the tax at 10 cents per square foot.

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While the chamber has not declared a stance, Hill said he has heard the organization’s officials have also not shut the door on endorsing the proposed tax.

“I have been told the chamber is still researching the measure and has not made an endorsement decision,” Hill said in an email.

He added, “I am hopeful the business community will see that this investment in Burbank schools will help them recruit employees, help prepare their future workforce, and help strengthen the Burbank community, which will help their businesses.”

Hill and Flavin said they will continue to provide information because many Burbank businesses are not familiar with the proposed tax.

“I would say a large of percentage of [businesses] aren’t even aware of the parcel tax,” Flavin said. “That’s the purpose of reaching out and making sure they understand it’s coming.”

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