Glendale shoppers, business owners react to sales tax hike

Downtown Glendale shoppers on Thursday afternoon — largely unaware that voters approved a 0.75% local sales tax increase earlier in the week — grappled with how it might affect their shopping habits.

The tax hike, known as Measure S, passed Tuesday with 53% of the vote and will raise the combined local sales tax to 10.25% in April, up from the current 9.5%.

Proponents, including the full Glendale City Council, say the $30 million it is projected to generate annually will be used to fund essential services, such as affordable housing, street repairs and police service.

Several people, including 18-year-old Shelby Gutenberg, said they might second-guess non-necessity purchases.

“I’ll be more careful about the things I purchase. I’ll be more considerate if I want an extra cup of coffee one day,” said Gutenberg, who was enjoying a beverage at Philz Coffee.

Acknowledging that he’d still have to buy many of the items he needs, Jose Agramonte, 72, said his fixed income will inevitably be stretched thinner because of the tax hike.

“My resources will be shorter because of the increase,” said Agramonte, a longtime Glendale resident.

Out-of-towners highlighted the relative nature of taxation.

Amanda Elliott and Mariam Keita, both 29 and visiting from New Jersey, said the number sounded high to them, given that their state has a 6.6% sales tax rate, but felt it wouldn’t drastically change their spending habits.

“It might make me more cognizant of my shopping … but if I need to buy something, I’m going to buy it, regardless of taxes,” Elliott said.

Meanwhile, Andre and Panos Koufos, both 33 and visiting from Greece, said taxes in America are generally much lower here compared to their native country.

The forthcoming tax “is normal,” Andre Koufos said. “It’s little.”

Tommy Ardolino, owner of Frame of Mind Gallery in Glendale, said in a phone interview that customers are fine with the “plus-tax” idea until they come to the counter to make a purchase.

“They don’t do the calculation until they get the bad news,” Ardolino said, adding that customers have started to complain more as taxes continue to rise.

Ken Grayson, owner of Grayson’s Tune Town, which opened in Montrose in 1953, said over the phone that brick-and-mortar stores are already struggling to compete with online retailers, and the new tax will only compound their problems.

“People are wise shoppers today, and they look at the bottom line,” said Grayson, who was a vocal critic of the tax prior to its passage.

Another impetus for raising taxes was maintaining local control of generated funds, according to city officials.

If the state or county raises taxes before Glendale does, those funds will funnel out of the city, Councilman Vartan Gharpetian said late last month.

Under state law, a combined sales tax in any city cannot exceed 10.25%.

Twitter: @lila_seidman