HomeCity NewsVoters Weigh Sales Tax Hike

Voters Weigh Sales Tax Hike

A proposed sales tax measure is on the ballot for the March 5 election that, if passed by voters, would increase the current sales tax of 9.5% to 10.25%, providing more money back to the coffers of the city of La Cañada Flintridge.
If passed by voters, the measure would leave the city with 1.75% instead of 1% of the sales tax funds to use. The city estimates that this will bring in about $2.75 million back to the city annually.
As much as it may seem to some, on a $100 purchase, $10.25 will be collected in sales tax, with $6 going to the state, $2.50 going to Los Angeles County and $1.75 earmarked for the city. Sales tax in California is currently capped at 10.25%.
The taxes collected and returned to the city would go to the city’s general fund, but the city said that the additional funds can help increase public safety initiatives and improve maintenance on city infrastructure, such as on the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge and street and road replacement.
The tax increase is seen as crucial to the city because it has not raised its own portion of the sales tax since the city’s incorporation in 1976, according to city officials. In 2019, LCF’s sales tax was set at 9.5%, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
“If the sales tax increase is not passed by voters, the sales tax rate in La Cañada Flintridge will for now remain at its current rate, which is 9.5%,” City Manager Daniel Jordan told the Outlook Valley Sun. “In the meantime, it is possible that another jurisdiction, such as the County of Los Angeles or a special district whose taxing authority includes La Cañada Flintridge, could place another sales tax measure on the ballot at a future election.”
The state’s Transactions and Use Tax Law authorizes cities, counties, citywide and countywide authorities and special districts to impose additional sales and use taxes, subject to a vote of the people.
If another county or jurisdiction wants to take advantage of the 0.75% available in the city, Jordan said the matter would still be decided by LCF residents on a ballot. If passed, it would still leave the city with 1%, and leave the other available funds to the county or jurisdiction that sponsored the sales tax measure.
“For example, the County of Los Angeles may submit a sales tax measure to fully utilize the 0.75% remaining, which means that the revenues collected would not be available for the city to provide services to its residents,” according to the City Council agenda at its Nov. 21 meeting.
The last increase of the sales tax that the County of Los Angeles enacted was in 2017 with an increase of ¼ cent to Measure H for homeless programs.
Many community members and businesses appear in favor of the measure, especially since the city has not raised the percentage of its sales tax in 47 years.
According to the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, businesses in the community have widely shown support for the measure.
Chamber President/CEO Pat Anderson said that local businesses will undergo “little to no effect” if the measure is passed.
“I strongly support the sales tax measure,” Anderson told the Outlook Valley Sun. “I encourage everyone living in La Cañada Flintridge to vote ‘yes’ on the sales tax measure. Keep the money here to improve our community and to protect us from crime and disasters such as wildfires.”
The owner of Los Gringos Locos, Bent Hansen, said that he heard about the measure at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in January.
“My initial reaction was an eye roll, as in, it just never ends,” Hansen said.
But, after asking more questions and learning that most surrounding municipalities already collect 10.25% in sales tax, and consumers are already paying that percentage whenever they travel outside LCF, he became a supporter of the measure.
“I support the measure wholeheartedly,” said Hansen. “I thought it was probably unique for a local small business to support a measure that will increase the cost of dining out.”
Hansen has also taken it upon himself to talk with other business owners and restaurants in the LCF community. He said some people have expressed concerns over rising costs and a fear of additional self-taxation.
“And at some point, it will be just too much to buy things without understanding a large percentage of the cost goes directly to government and not the business owner,” said Hansen.
The general opposition to taxation he has heard from business owners in the community is, “When will it ever stop?,” he said.
Another reason Hansen is supporting the measure is because if the city doesn’t raise the sales tax, “There is a risk for another agency or entity to lock us out of this ability, and then the monies would not stay local.”
Another local businessman, Robert Ananian, who owns Flintridge Pizza Kitchen, formerly known as Stella’s, said he is neutral about the sales tax.
Ananian said that he found out about the measure through a chamber email, and if passed, “We’re going to deal with a little bit of backlash from customers, because [the sales tax] has been the same here for so long.”
Ananian said he was surprised that the sales tax hasn’t risen sooner, with cities like Pasadena already increasing it. However, he anticipates customers will blame the business owners when they see prices rise.
“Oddly enough customers will tend to tell us, ‘Hey, what happened?’ not knowing that we [voted] on it,” Ananian said.
Sales taxes are considered regressive because they take a larger percentage of income from low-income taxpayers than from high-income taxpayers. To make such taxes less regressive, many states exempt basic necessities such as food from the sales tax. According to the United States Census Bureau, the LCF median household income between 2018 and 2022 was $210,625.
If the current sales tax measure is passed by voters in the March election, it would put LCF in line with many other nearby cities who already charge the 10.25% sales tax, like South Pasadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre, to name a few.
A series of community members have volunteered to support the measure and campaign to help educate the community on the proposed increase.
Endorsements on the website, yesonlcf.org, include Mayor Rick Gunter, La Cañada Unified School District Board of Education President Josh Epstein, and former LCF Mayor Donald Voss and Laura Olhasso, among others.
Former LCF Mayor Greg Brown is also involved in the campaign and said that he was mayor in 2018 when the city first started having discussions about raising the tax. But, with other factors in place that year, like the LCUSD’s parcel tax, the city decided to wait.
“Nobody likes paying higher taxes if they don’t have to, but there are things that only in this case, the city [use it for],” said Brown. “And La Cañada, since its founding, has been a very low tax city.”
Brown said he doesn’t like taxes himself, but sees this measure as, “the only way to have a very efficient use of tax dollars in a way that are needed,” like increase public safety in the city.
The Vote Yes on LCF campaign has so far raised about $20,000 in contributions, according to co-chair Brad Schwartz.

LCUSD will open its district office to voters from March 2 to March 4, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and March 5, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., for people to cast their ballots in person. The district office is located at 4490 Cornishon Ave.
The city will also host a one-day flex voting center at City Hall on Feb. 26 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. City Hall is located at One Civic Center Drive.
Voters can also drop off their ballots through Election Day at 8 p.m. at the La Cañada Flintridge Public Library, located at 4545 N. Oakwood Ave.

First published in the February 22 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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