Written by Dominic Marziali
Photo by Helena Fu
The South Pasadena City Council discussed an initiative by the Pasadena-based political group, TeaPAC, to repeal the Utility Users Tax (UUT) Wednesday, July 18. Councilmembers considered the longer reaching effects of a repeal and plans of action should voters repeal the tax on the upcoming November ballot.
South Pasadena is operating on a limited budget, with restricting funds to cover every department and maintain community services. The loss of the UUT, which brings in $3.4 million in revenue and accounts for roughly 12 percent of the city budget, would result in the reduction or elimination of a number of city services, impacting nearly every city department.
Under the preferred fiscal plan that accounts for the loss of UUT revenue, the South Pasadena Public Library would be one of the most heavily affected departments. In the event that South Pasadena’s UUT is repealed in November, the library will be forced to reduce its weekly hours by 20 and fully close on Sundays and Mondays. The budget reduction will also require the library to eliminate special programs for children, author nights, film nights, and more, as well as reducing its book purchasing budget.
The library and senior center is currently the only public space recognized by the City as a cooling center, and reducing its weekly hours from 57 to 37 poses a safety hazard to individuals who use it on dangerously hot days.
In a poll about what residents want most protected from budget reductions, most residents put public safety at the top of the list. However, both the fire and police departments will see significant budget reductions. Crossing guard positions around schools, which are contracted through the police department, will be completely eliminated, as will the School Resources Officer position. The fire and paramedic staff will fall below the nationally recommended levels with the passage of the repeal, bringing the staff from six to five members each shift.
TeaPAC, which is part of the broader Tea Party movement, seeks to reduce taxes in cities small and large. In South Pasadena, the group has been largely unsuccessful. TeaPAC previously attempted to get the repeal measure onto the ballot twice, but was unable to acquire enough signatures. The group recently acquired enough signatures, putting the issue on the November 6, 2018 ballot.
The city is hoping that residents reject the proposal and retain UUT in order to continue funding many of the community services that are funded by the tax. Councilmembers will revisit the issue during the first public city council meeting of September.