Ed Donnelly
Photo by Steve Whitmore

A South Pasadena political action committee  is in the early stages of forming to take on the repeal of the utility user tax that funds, in no small measure, public safety, fire, and senior programs, to name just a few of the services, officials announced Tuesday.

The repealing of the utility user tax or UUT is on the November ballot, and, if passed, would require significant cuts to the services provided to South Pasadena residents, according to the co-chair of the newly formed South Pasadena Public Services Committee.

“The committee is a group of 15 residents who are concerned that our local utilities user tax is up for repeal this November,” said Ed Donnelly during a wide-ranging interview about the UUT in The Review offices Tuesday afternoon. “And we are working to prevent that by informing everybody through a campaign of just what it is those funds are used for and why they are so critical to maintain our quality of life here.”

The UUT is used to pay for police, fire, schools, school crossing guards, a school resources officer, seniors, the senior center, dial-a-ride, low-cost meals, “and just our small-town quality of life, the public library, our fourth of July parade, summer concert series at Garfield Park, the sort of services you’d come to expect living in South Pasadena and that’s the reason most of us come here to live,” according to Donnelly.

If the UUT is eliminated on the November ballot, the city would lose about $3.5 million or 12 percent of its $27.5 million budget.

The city is prohibited from advocating for the UUT but can educate the public as to the consequences of losing that revenue. Officials have indicated that a citizens committee, separate from the City Council, is in the process of being formed to advocate for the UUT, which is the South Pasadena Public Services Committee.

The UUT repeal is being pushed by a Tea Party faction known as the California Tax Limitation Committee. If a person wants to keep the utility tax, they vote “no.” If they want to repeal the tax, they vote “yes.”

The tax includes water, power, cell phone bills, cable, electricity and gas, among other utilities.

Recently, the UUT proponents got a boost when a community survey with a five percent margin of error indicated that 70 percent of South Pasadena residents wants to keep the UUT.

The community survey, designed to gauge how South Pasadena residents feel about city services, had a break-out section for the UUT, which indicated the 70 percent favorability.

“We were very heartened by those results,” Donnelly said. “But we are taking nothing for granted. We are going to make sure the UUT is not repealed. The city needs it. The city deserves it. And when people understand what it pays for, they will also vote to keep it.” 

DeWolfe also said the UUT would be a topic of council discussion in July.

“The potential loss of the utility users tax (UUT) is our top concern, as it would force significant and immediate cuts in city services,” DeWolfe said. “We will bring a separate report to council in July that will discuss the fiscal impacts of the initiative … and outline the specific cuts that will be made if the repeal is successful.”

Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Marina Khubesrian said the UUT is of vital importance.

“The City Council has significantly increased the investment in our streets and efforts to maintain robust public safety services which has been made possible, in large part, by the revenues from the UUT passed by voters in 2011,”

Councilwoman Diana Mahmud echoed those comments by her colleagues, saying recently that this is vital to the city.

“This is a very important issue,” Mahmud said. “The city cannot legally advocate for the UUT, but we can educate the community. The citizens committee can advocate for it.”

And that’s exactly what the South Pasadena Public Services Committee is doing, Donnelly said.

He summarized the committee’s message this way.

“Please join me in voting no on the repeal of the UUT this November,” he said.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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