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Voters OK Extension of Stanton's 5% Utility Tax

November 07, 2001|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Stanton voters on Tuesday agreed to extend a 5% utility tax, averting what city leaders said would have been a financial nightmare.

The tax, implemented in 1993 by the City Council, produces roughly 13% of the city's $11.5 million annual revenue. Layoffs would have been inevitable had the tax not passed muster with voters, officials said.

Measure A, which needed only a majority vote to pass, was winning by a more than 2-1 ratio with nearly all the votes counted.

The 8-year-old tax on gas and electrical services was put at risk after a state Supreme Court ruling determined that such taxes needed to be approved by voters, not elected officials. There was little in the way of an organized campaign against Measure A. There wasn't even an argument against the measure printed in the voter's guide. But the tax had been a sore point in town after it was first approved. The council members who supported it were the targets of a recall attempt and the tax emerged as a campaign issue during the 1994 municipal elections.

Supporters say the tax has helped change Stanton for the better. The city has more police officers and crime rates have dropped more than in any other city in the county.

Some longtime residents credited the tax money for helping pay for the police muscle to drive prostitutes off the streets and roust gangs from neighborhoods.

Not everyone agrees.

"More taxes doesn't necessarily mean less crime," said Kevin Carr, who led a grass-roots campaign against Measure A, including a Web site.

Carr said there is no guarantee that the money will go toward police services and that elected leaders could just as easily opt to give themselves raises.

Stella Cox, director of the Stanton Neighborhood Center, credited the tax with making Stanton a safer town. "This tax is our whole future," she said.

As preventive medicine, the city adopted an emergency budget that would have been implemented Nov. 30. That budget cuts four police positions--10% of the city's force--and eliminates five full-time and two part-time employees, who make up nearly a quarter of the city employees.

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