Glendale voters will decide on Tuesday whether to increase the city’s sales tax by 0.75%, on top of the current 9.5% sales tax.
Supporters, including all members of the Glendale City Council, argue that the resulting 10.25% tax — the highest it can go, according to state law — will generate $30 million annually to pay for services such as affordable housing and street repairs.
Mike Mohill, a Glendale resident and vocal critic of the measure, said the tax is a means to remedy city fund mismanagement.
“If the measure passes, there’s no guarantee where it’s going to be spent,” said Mohill, who has run unsuccessfully for City Council in the past.
While city officials have not determined how they would spend the funds if the measure passes, the city would create a separate account for the money the new tax generates so the public can track where it goes, according to Councilman Vartan Gharpetian.
Another impetus for the measure is maintaining local control of generated funds, Gharpetian said.
If the state or county raises taxes before Glendale does, those funds will funnel out of the city, Gharpetian said, pointing to a county anti-homelessness initiative called Measure H that passed last year.
According to Gharpetian, the city generates $10 million a year for Measure H, but it receives only $300,000.
“We need these funds to stay in Glendale. Otherwise, we’ll lose it to [other] agencies,” Gharpetian said.
Mohill called the claim a “scare tactic,” based on speculation about what other lawmakers will do.
Echoing concerns expressed by some local business owners, Mohill said the additional tax will drive away potential shoppers and diners to neighboring cities.
Measure S is the only Glendale-specific measure going before local voters on Tuesday. As Mayor Zareh Sinanyan pointed out during a recent council meeting, the item will be located toward the end of the ballot.
“Don’t get discouraged when you see all of the federal and state stuff, and then you see 25 judges,” Sinanyan said earlier this month. “Don’t stop looking. Measure S comes after that.”