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A question of measure

Jackson Bell

From the narrow passage at the voting booths to the possible

activation of it at City Hall, Measure N has caused controversy among

Burbank lawmakers and businesses since it was first introduced.

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Allowing City Council the ability to raise the transient-parking

tax from 10% to 12%, the purpose of the measure is to help balance

the city’s budget to make up for the anticipated $8.6-million deficit

for fiscal year 2003-04.

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The measure barely passed in the April 8 general election -- so

close, in fact, that the city clerk’s office didn’t have the results

tallied until the following week. It squeaked by on a vote of 4,073

for raising the tax and 4,026 against it.

Collected since 1996, its 10% rate has been constant.

But before any increase is implemented, the council must

deliberate the issue publicly and then the majority of its five

members have to approve it. No date had been set by Tuesday for the

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vote.

Residents were the main concern when the council approved the

proposed measure for the election, Mayor David Laurell said.

“We believe this is a tax that will have the least impact on the

residents,” he said.

However, the market it will probably most affect is the hotel and

parking-lot industry that relies on the Burbank-Glen- dale-Pasadena

Airport for its customer base. The related businesses close to the

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airport, which provide the bulk of services to travelers, will more

than likely pass the levy onto their costs.

Financial Services Director Derek Hanway said that before the

airport cut its parking fees in December from $9 to $4.55 per day,

the city was generating about $400,000 yearly from the

transient-parking tax. He said figures after the rate change are

unavailable, but added that the last year has been “fairly steady.”

“I don’t think that it will have that big of an impact on the

individual businesses,” he said. “But the question is whether or not

they will absorb the costs.”

A potential jump by one-fifth in the tax leaves local businesses

no choice but to charge customers, said Joseph Kruvi, general manager

of the Burbank Airport Hilton.

He added that the hotel cannot afford otherwise, due to the

declining economy and a waning travel industry. It has about 1,200

parking spaces dedicated to travelers and is already levied between

$150,000 and $200,000 each year.

“I just think that it is the wrong time to raise taxes ... when

businesses are already suffering,” Kruvi said.

Although “not unsympathetic” to the council for its intentions of

alleviating locals by charging out-of-towners, the Burbank Chamber of

Commerce believes the measure will have an adverse effect on local

business.

“Has there ever been an economic recovery due to taxation? I don’t

think so,” said Susan Bowers, the chamber’s executive director.


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