Rick Lemmo, president of the Downtown Glendale Assn., said Friday a potential city sales tax increase was a “love-hate situation” for him.
“From a practical side, this makes sense in keeping tax dollars here at home,” Lemmo said. “From a standpoint of representing the businesses in our district, it always makes things tighter and more competitive when our sales tax may be more expensive than a neighboring community.”
Earlier this month, the Glendale City Council voted to add a proposed 0.75% sales tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot.
In his presentation to the council, the city’s finance director Bob Elliot proposed the hike, which would up the city’s sales tax from 9.5% to 10.25%.
If approved, it could potentially generate an additional $30 million in revenue annually.
Council members felt the sales tax increase was necessary before Los Angeles County or the state of California implements sales tax increases, which local officials fear would lead to money leaving Glendale.
The Burbank City Council recently placed a 0.75% sales tax proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. The city currently has no sales tax.
The Pasadena City Council also recently adopted a proposed sales tax increase to its November ballot, which, like Glendale, would raise the sales tax from 9.5% to 10.25%.
In a letter to the Glendale City Council obtained by the Glendale News-Press, Ken Grayson, owner of Grayson’s Tune Town in Montrose, expressed his disappointment in council members adding the measure to the Nov. 6 ballot.
“This proposed sales tax increase will create hardships on the businesses that have been the backbone of our society. With due diligence, you are responsible to help sustain these community businesses, not weaken them through added competitive disadvantages,” Grayson’s letter stated.
His letter further stated that taxing Glendale residents would not resolve the city’s financial issues.
“As elected officials, you are responsible to find solutions to the cost of governing. We all know the root of the problem — unfundable retirement costs. This problem will not go away no matter how much you tax the citizens of Glendale,” according to Grayson’s letter.
At a Glendale council meeting earlier this month, resident Mike Mohill expressed strong concerns about the proposed sales tax hike.
“You are proposing to increase Glendale’s sales tax an additional 0.75%, which is in addition to the new annual fire brush fee of $15 and sewer-operating fee increases among other fees and taxes you already approved for this current fiscal year budget,” Mohill said.
Mohill said he thinks the money generated will go toward city employees’ pensions and contracts, and not problems such as affordable housing, street maintenance and public transportation.
“It’s a benefit for the city employees, not the people,” Mohill said in a phone interview Friday. “They don’t have to impose this. It’s preemptive. They say, ‘Well, the county will come tax us first.’ If the county wanted to tax us, they would.”
Lemmo said he understands the reason a sales tax increase is needed and the council’s rationale behind it but hopes the money remains in the city.
“I prefer to have [the money] stay in Glendale to help our city, our initiatives and our businesses,” Lemmo said.