Burbank voters to decide on 3 ballot measures in June

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Burbank voters will have more than just the race for governor to consider when they are at the polls on June 5 for California’s primary election.

The city is looking to amend its charter via three ballot measures — two of which involve election procedures and another that hopes to rectify a court ruling regarding the transfer of electric funds to the General Fund.

The measure that has been getting the most attention has been Measure T, a proposed charter amendment aimed at resolving a court ruling made in September 2017, in which a judge ruled in favor of Burbank resident Christopher Spencer. Spencer had sued the city in 2016, alleging that the transfer of a portion of Burbank Water and Power’s gross annual sales of electricity to the General Fund was illegal and violated Propositions 26 and 218.

The goal of both those propositions was to prevent hidden taxes and require a supermajority vote on new taxes and fees. Proposition 218 was approved by voters in 1996 and Proposition 26 in 2010.

If approved by voters, Measure T would allow Burbank to continue moving no more than 7% of the electric sales — about $12.5 million for the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year — from its city-owned utility to the General Fund. A portion of the funds will be allocated for light infrastructure maintenance while the rest can be used in other departments.

“We’re not raising fees on utility bills,” City Manager Ron Davis said in an interview. “We’re just continuing what we’ve done since the 1950s. There’s no change.”

Burbank voters first approved the transfer in 1958 to allow the city to move up to 7% of the city utility’s gross annual electric sales to the General Fund. In her recent court decision, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel suggested the city clearly state in its charter language that the practice of transferring those funds had gained voter approval. That clarification is at the core of Measure T.

Because of the lawsuit, which the city is appealing, Burbank was barred from transferring the funds during the 2017-18 fiscal year, putting the city in a budget deficit. A failure of the ballot measure on June 5 would create about a $12.4-million deficit in Burbank’s General Fund for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The Burbank City Council has already looked at various long-term cuts to city services that would help the city get back into the black, should the measure not pass.

Some opponents of Measure T believe the ballot measure will increase electric rates in the city, while former City Council candidate and business owner Juan Guillen, during the City Council’s April 24 meeting, said that the transfers should be stopped because the city has not been able to use those funds effectively.

Davis said that if Measure T fails at the polls, the city will continue the appeals process.

Also on the June ballot is Measure V, a proposed charter amendment that would change when Burbank holds its elections.

In September, the City Council voted to align Burbank’s election with the state’s dates to comply with SB 415, a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 1, 2015, aimed at increasing voter turnout.

The legislation states that cities are required to change their election cycles to coincide with the state’s schedule if the average voter turnout in those cities during a city election were below the average turnout for the previous four statewide general elections.

Burbank’s last four city general elections had an average turnout of about 16.9%, while the state’s last four statewide general elections averaged about 60.4%.

Should Burbank voters approve Measure V, the city’s first municipal election would be held during the November 2020 state general election.

Additionally, officials that have been voted in — council members, the city clerk and city treasurer — would have their terms extended by one year and eight months to coincide with the realignment.

A similar ballot measure, Measure Y, tackles election dates for the Burbank Unified School District.

The proposed charter amendment, if approved, would also realign the school board’s election with the state general election. However, there is an additional caveat in Measure Y: At the school district’s request, the measure would remove Burbank Unified’s election procedures from the city charter, which means that the district would follow state election procedures.

The ballot measure would not remove Burbank Unified from the charter, but would instead allow the school district to regulate its own elections.

Twitter: @acocarpio