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City official pushes two tax increases for L.A. ballot

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says the hikes — one on parking revenue, the other on real estate sales — would generate up to $125 million annually for the city budget.

October 19, 2012|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Without added revenue, crime will probably go up in L.A., says City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said. “It’s impossible for us to move forward and continue to protect public safety from serious reductions without this new revenue source,” he said.
Without added revenue, crime will probably go up in L.A., says City Administrative… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles' top budget official has asked the City Council to draft two tax measures for the March ballot, saying both are needed to avert cuts to police and fire services.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the tax hikes — one on parking revenue, the other on real estate sales — would generate up to $125 million annually for the city budget, which faces a shortfall of $220 million.

Without additional money, crime will probably go up, Santana said. "It's impossible for us to move forward and continue to protect public safety from serious reductions without this new revenue source," he said.

The proposals come six years after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council embarked on a plan to boost the size of the Los Angeles Police Department by 1,000 officers. To pay for that expansion, they tripled the trash pickup fee for single-family homes and apartments with two to four units.

Villaraigosa said he is open to both tax proposals, which are scheduled to be reviewed Friday by a committee headed by Council President Herb Wesson. But the mayor also warned that he would embrace them only if the council agrees to make other decisions, such as privatizing the zoo and the Convention Center and proceeding with a delayed package of layoffs.

"Before I support any tax measure, I want to make sure we're making the tough calls," he said. "I've proposed that we're going to have to lay off [employees] and the council deferred it from July till January. We're going to have to move ahead with those layoffs."

Wesson and two other council members — Eric Garcetti and Paul Krekorian — have requested language for a third possible tax increase that would generate money for park programs by hiking property taxes by $39 per parcel.

All three tax hikes are being weighed for the March election, when voters will be asked to choose a mayor, city attorney and city controller and decide who will fill eight of the council's 15 seats.

The parks measure would need two-thirds support to pass, Santana said.

By contrast, the other two measures would need 50% of the vote plus one.

One would increase the tax on parking facilities to 15% from the current 10%. The other would establish a new tiered taxation system for property sales, generating up to $82 million a year for the budget that pays for basic city services.

If approved, the measure would reduce the tax rate for homes in the bottom quarter of sales — those currently worth $255,000 or less — while doubling the rate for the top quarter, or homes valued at more than $585,000.

Under the tiered proposal, properties that sell for $366,000 would be taxed $2,470.50, up from $1,647. Properties that sell for $586,000 would be taxed $5,274, up from $2,637.

Real estate associations joined forces earlier this year to form Los Angeles Citizens Against Discriminatory Taxes, an advocacy group that has been trying to keep taxes on real estate sales from going up. Jeff McConnell, that group's spokesman, said Thursday that his organization did not yet have a position on Santana's proposal.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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