South Pasadena is a very special city. It has a small-town charm but has a population that embraces progressive and sustainable pursuits. We are proud of our efforts to make our city “green” by embracing 100 percent clean energy and “no gas” equipment for parks maintenance.
We have over past years developed reasonable budgets and reserves. Unfortunately, there are expenses that are beyond the city’s control. State pension obligations, as well as other escalating costs, are having a negative effect on the city and its financial future.
It is projected that the city will face a $1 million shortfall by June 2021 and $2 million by 2026. By increasing our local sales tax just 0.75 percent (“Measure A’’ on the November ballot), we can increase our local revenue by a projected $1.5 million a year. If we don’t look at revenue enhancements, the city will be forced to make budget and services cuts.
As a small city, South Pasadena’s expenses are primarily personnel costs. The majority of our city’s funding supports our local public safety.
Emergency response: Currently more than 60 percent of all 911 calls in South Pasadena are for medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and car accidents. According to medical experts, the brain starts to deteriorate five minutes after a person stops breathing. Our local firefighters typically arrive on scene within three minutes, helping to improve survival rates, and in the case of fires, reduce property damage and injuries.
Public safety: Every day we see in the media the ongoing increase of crime in the region, from “porch pirates,” to car thefts and more. Budget cuts could mean a reduction in response times. Some say, let’s just contract out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but how long would it take a new organization to get to know our streets, our problems and the areas where crimes have been committed? Our South Pasadena Police Department has made great strides with our policing. They have taken on the massage parlors, helped change the convalescent-home situation and brought a more humane approach to dealing with the increase in the homeless population.
Continue to improve our streets, sidewalks and urban forest: Just drive almost any street in South Pasadena and it is clear that the streets, medians and sidewalks are in great need of repair or replacement. South Pasadena is not alone — all across the country our cities are experiencing the neglect of our crucial infrastructure.
While generations before invested into our infrastructure and we have been enjoying the investments that were made 50 and even 100 years ago, now is the time for us to continue to invest in our future for our children and future generations. We can see around us where we have revitalized streets and sidewalks, as well as our water system. Let’s continue with this effort.
Key services that are fundamental to our quality of life: A small increase in the sales tax will allow the city to continue its street improvements, tree trimming and new tree plantings, but also our library, parks, meals on wheels, and other senior services.
Let’s be clear, without the sales tax increase, there will be significant cuts to ALL of our local services.
Measure “A” funds stay in South Pasadena: Funds generated from the sales tax increase cannot be taken by Sacramento or the county. The 0.75 percent funds stay in South Pasadena to improve and maintain our quality of life. The increase represents an addition of only 38 cents more for a $50 dinner bill.
One might ask, didn’t we just vote on city funding? Yes, last year, 80 percent of South Pasadena voters voted to keep our local UUT tax, but that funding only contributes around 11 percent of our total city revenue. To cover the demands of Sacramento, the city will need increased revenues or will need to slash the budget.
I am a fiscal conservative and want unnecessary taxes and regulations reined in where possible. What I don’t want is to see financial cuts to critical public safety and city services.
Remember what you love about South Pasadena and why you live in the community. Funding from Measure A will stay in the city and will provide funding to support critical services and keep our quality of life. That is why I encourage all South Pas voters to vote yes on Measure “A” on Nov. 5.
(Hughes is a member of the South Pasadena Committee For Fiscal Stability 2019-
Yes on Measure A.)
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