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VALLEY PERSPECTIVE

Raising Taxes for Buildings Doesn't Add Up

It's a logical question to ask: Is the city of Los Angeles trying to make breaking away more complicated?

September 17, 2000|RICHARD H. CLOSE | Richard H. Close is president of Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., chairman of Valley VOTE and author of a ballot argument against Proposition F

The Los Angeles City Council just doesn't understand.

The city has proposed through Proposition F to increase your property taxes by $532 million plus interest to build new buildings and refurbish existing ones. The City Council apparently believes that we need new buildings more than we need additional paramedics, firefighters and animal control officers.

Other cities in Los Angeles County have adequate facilities without special tax increases. Why not Los Angeles? If we are going to increase taxes, wouldn't it be better to increase them for more police officers, firefighters and paramedics, not more buildings?

The City Council had enough money to give $4 million to the Democratic National Convention and is spending $299 million to remodel City Hall. When it comes to providing adequate facilities for public safety officers, the city says: "'There just isn't enough money available. We need to increase your taxes."

Is the City Council trying to make it more expensive and more complicated for the San Fernando Valley to become a separate city? In November 2002, Los Angeles residents may vote on whether the Valley will become a separate city. Proposition F on this November's ballot will complicate the process. Perhaps that is the reason the City Council is putting it on the ballot. Even if the bond measure is approved, there is no guarantee that the money will be spent in the Valley before it becomes a city.

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Some City Council members probably will want to spend the money south of Mulholland Drive and require Valley residents to pay their share of the bonds. What is the track record of the city with its bonds? In 1989, Los Angeles voters approved bonds and increased property taxes to pay for new police facilities. The Valley was promised a new police station but it was never built. Our taxes were increased but we never received the benefits.

The City Council says that Proposition F is different. All the promised buildings would be built. In fact, they say they would have a citizens review committee to oversee the projects. What they don't tell you is that the committee would be appointed by the city. In addition, the committee would have no authority.

Why does the city always want homeowners and property owners to pay increased taxes? The city has many sources of revenue. However, when it wants to increase taxes, it always turns to homeowners and property owners.

The city admits that it does not have enough paramedics and firefighters. Who would staff the new buildings? There is a fire station in Porter Ranch that was vacant for many years because there was no money or personnel available to staff it. The city has even less staff now; why does it need more buildings?

Los Angeles' first goal should be to hire sufficient firefighters, paramedics and animal control officers before it builds new facilities that would remain empty. The city has an annual budget of $4.4 billion. City Council members receive a salary of $133,000 a year to effectively and efficiently operate the city.

With $4.4 billion a year in income, there is no need to raise our taxes. The city budget has increased by $1.7 billion a year during the last 10 years. What has the city done with these increases? There is more graffiti, less tree trimming and the streets and sidewalks are in worse condition. If neighboring cities can live within their budgets, why not Los Angeles?

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On election day, we need to send a message to the Los Angeles City Council: Prioritize spending, become efficient and do not give away city taxes until there is more money than is necessary to meet current needs. If Proposition F passes, rents will have to increase. Higher property taxes will make it more expensive for businesses to operate here. Business will move out of the city to, for instance, Burbank or Glendale, which have lower taxes.

At the November election, send a message:

* No bonds now.

* Do not interfere with the Valley cityhood effort.

* We need paramedics, firefighters and animal control officers, not higher taxes to pay for more buildings.

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