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Glendale to study possible tax measure

Glendale officials want to float a new tax on an upcoming ballot, but first they plan to ask a public outreach consultant to gauge residents’ support on the possible measure.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved with a 3-2 vote to move forward with the hiring process for a consultant, which is anticipated to cost around $87,000.

POLL: Should Glendale add a tax measure to the June 2014 ballot?

Councilmen Frank Quintero and Zareh Sinanyan said they couldn’t support even opening the door to a new tax because electricity rate increases approved in August will ratchet up rates for residential customers by a compounded 29% over the next five years.

Mayor Dave Weaver said the move is just a first step.

“It has a long way to go, we’re just going to test the waters,” Weaver said. “Even if it gets to the ballot, we can lose on everything [at the polls].”

“I don’t feel comfortable with it,” Sinanyan said, suggesting the city give a bigger buffer of time between the two hikes.

The tax discussion comes after Glendale failed to garner support in an election in April for three ballot measures which would have changed how the city accounts for an annual multi-million transfer from Glendale Water & Power, hires a City Treasurer and issues bonds.

Despite the lack of success in April, officials said in a city report that Glendale’s dim fiscal situation may sway voters, but they’re going to need a marketing pro to help do that.

Although City Hall has seen massive restructuring, significantly cutting positions and budgets, Glendale’s financial situation still hangs in the balance as federal and state financial support dries up.

“Unless expectations by our key stakeholders are going to lessen, then the fabric of our organization may soon begin to fray,” according to the report. “The road to new revenues leads through the ballot box.”

A tax has not been put to a city-wide vote since April 2009, when the city’s utility user tax was approved.

As part of the proposed outreach, the city may review several tax options, including general and special taxes that could be specified for library or public safety services. Officials have ruled out business license taxes, parking taxes and additional sales taxes since the economy is still fragile, according to the report.

Officials may consider:

  • Increasing the transient occupancy tax, which is charged to hotel-goers, from 10% to 12%, in order to use that money to fund economic development.

  • A monthly paramedic tax on all residential households that would cancel out bills residents get when they use a city ambulance.

  • A quality-of-life tax for parks maintenance, capital improvement and library services.

The city would use the outreach consultant to help decipher which type of tax would be most amenable to residents.

“I, for one, wouldn’t presume to put something on the ballot unless there was very strong community support to do so,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

A general tax would need a simple majority, but a special tax earmarked for a specific use, such as a library services tax, would need a two-thirds majority.

To place a tax measure on the ballot would cost an additional $20,000 to the estimated ballot costs of $280,000 to $300,000 for a special election.

The city must conduct an election in June 2014 to replace Councilman Frank Quintero, who was appointed to a 14-month term in April when Rafi Manoukian was elected to City Treasurer, effectively leaving his City Council seat open.

Officials expect to review selecting a consultant during a meeting Dec. 10. The selected consultant would return to the council in late February or early March with a recommendation for which type of tax would have the highest likelihood of passing.

The deadline for the council to green light a tax measure is March 4.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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