NO on Measure N | A Letter From Harry Knapp

Harry A. Knapp Former Mayor. | To keep the Utility Users Tax (UUT) or repeal will before South Pasadena voters in November. South Pasadena City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe made a presentation Wednesday night showing what could be cut from the budget if the UUT is repealed.

Recently, some prominent citizens of the City have written letters in support of ballot Measure N (repeal of the Utility Users’ Tax in its entirety). Their concerns with respect to city expenditures are legitimate, as it is every citizen’s duty to be concerned about such matters. However, to delete 12% of the General Fund revenue intake in one fell swoop would be irresponsible.

Everyone talks about the “Quality of Life” in South Pasadena. One writer wanted a definition. For starters, our excellent public safety departments (52% of the General Fund) are an integral component of that “Quality.” Past reviews of outsourcing these services did not show savings in the long run, although there were some in the first couple of years. Quality of service was suspected to be less.

A primary reason why the Utility Tax has been renewed at sunset periods is that “back in the day” the City received about a third of the property tax paid to the County. State legislative programs enacted in the 1990s reduced this amount. Today the City receives about 24%.

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Much talk has been offered by the proponents of Measure N about the increase of pension funding. This again is a legitimate concern but it is not a variable expense that can be controlled in the short run by discretionary decisions of the City Council. It is a fixed expense from the state based on the retirement liability of past employees as augmented by CalPERS investments. It is true that this expense will probably increase as time goes on, as the investment return of CalPERS has not been great, and of course, salaries do go up in time. However, the time to discuss control of city expenditures is during the public budgeting process and during election campaigns. It would be irresponsible to delete 12% of our General Fund revenue in one action, thus creating chaos and perhaps irreparable harm.

I urge all to vote NO on Measure N in November.