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Smart Voter
Los Angeles County, CA March 5, 2013 Election
Measure LHH-A
Remove Spending Limit on Fire Tax Monies
City of La Habra Heights

Ordinance - Majority Approval Required
Election Night Results (Unofficial)

Pass: 647 / 59.9% Yes votes ...... 434 / 40.1% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments |

Shall an ordinance be adopted to renew the City's authority to spend existing revenues from the special fire tax, approved by two-thirds of the City's voters in 1997, to provide essential fire and life-safety services, by renewing the voter-approved amendment to the City's appropriation limit?

Impartial Analysis from Sandra J. Levin, City Attorney
Summary. If passed, Ordinance No. 2013-___ would not impose any new tax or increase any existing tax. Rather, Ordinance No. 2013-___ would renew an amendment to the City's expenditure limit to allow the City to continue to spend the proceeds of the City's existing, voter-approved Special Fire Tax to provide fi re safety and emergency medical services in the City.

Background. Prior to 1997, the City of La Habra Heights funded its Fire Department with a Fire Fee collected via the property tax roll. The adoption of Proposition 218 in 1996 required that the City's Fire Fee be replaced with a voter-approved Special Fire Tax. In a special election held July 15, 1997, 82% of the City's voters approved replacing the Fire Fee with the current Special Fire Tax.

In 1980, the voters of California adopted Proposition 4, the so-called "Gann Initiative," which places a ceiling on the amount a local government can spend from "the proceeds of taxation" without voter approval. This limit, known as "the Gann Limit," was initially based on 1978 tax expenditures and adjusted annually thereafter for infl ation and population growth.

The old Fire Fee was not required to be included in the City's calculation of expenditures of "the proceeds of taxation" subject to the Gann Limit. However, when the Fire Fee was replaced with the Special Fire Tax in 1997, the City was then required to include the tax proceeds in its calculation of expenditures subject to the Gann Limit.

Without voter approval, this change would have brought the City's expenditures over its Gann Limit. Therefore, in 1997, and again in 2001, 2005, and 2009, the City's voters approved an increase in the City's Gann Limit to allow the City to spend the proceeds of the Special Fire Tax to provide fi re safety and emergency medical services to residents and property owners in the City.

Pursuant to Proposition 4, an amendment to the City's Gann Limit must be resubmitted to the City's voters every 4 years. Accordingly, the City Council placed Measure A on the ballot to allow the City's voters to adopt Ordinance No. 2013-___ to extend the Gann Limit amendment for another 4 years.

Effect of Ordinance No. 2013-___. If adopted by a majority of the voters, Ordinance No. 2013-___ would renew the amendment of the City's Gann Limit and allow the City to spend the proceeds of the City's existing, voter-approved Special Fire Tax to provide fi re safety and emergency medical services in the City. If Measure A is not approved, the Special Fire Tax + and property owners' obligations to pay that tax + would remain in place, but the City would be unable to spend all of the revenues collected.

Ordinance No. 2013-___expires by its own terms on March 10, 2017 unless the City's voters vote to extend it.

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Arguments For Measure LHH-A Arguments Against Measure LHH-A
Put simply:
  • Measure A does not raise taxes
  • Measure A does not cost you one cent
  • Measure A enables the City to spend 100% of tax proceeds

Failure to adopt Measure A would not reduce your tax rate or result in refunds, but would limit the amount available for life-safety and law enforcement services. In the first year, the reduction might be slight, but in years to follow the ceiling would curtail the city's ability to expend revenue, including gas taxes and other funds that come from outside sources. As a result cutbacks in essential services would have to occur.

California voters approved Proposition 4, the Gann Appropriations Limit, in 1979. Proposition 4 amended California's Constitution to impose a ceiling on the total amount of taxes that can be expended by cities. The ceiling was based on expenditure levels from 1978, the year La Habra Heights incorporated.

The proposition provided for a modest annual adjustment. Recognizing that voters may wish to approve tax increases, Proposition 4 also empowered voters to expand their city's Gann Limit in four year increments. In 1997 La Habra Heights' voters expanded the limit to accommodate the tax that funds the La Habra Heights Fire Department. Because the Fire Department provides excellent service at a very low cost, voters have reaffirmed the expanded ceiling every four years. The latest expansion will expire in 2013 unless it is renewed by Measure A.

The statutory adjustment, coupled with voter-approved expansions, has set this city's Gann Limit at $4,209,497. The decline in property taxes and outside revenues such as gas tax, has kept city expenditures significantly below the ceiling; however, without Measure A, the ceiling will drop by 24% to $3,186,379.

Please vote "yes" on Measure A.

Stan Carroll

Roy Francis
Mayor Pro Tem

Brian Bergman
Council Member

Carl Westerhoff
Council Member

Jane Williams
Council Member

A Gann limit override is NOT needed for Fire, Paramedic, or any other City spending.

Voters passed the Gann Initiative, limiting local spending, in 1979 by a 3 to 1 margin.

A Gann limit increase allows spending beyond State prescribed levels, if voters approve.

Official City budget documents show that spending over the past two years did not exceed the base Gann limit and the override amount was unnecessary.

In the previous two years, minor spending reductions of about 1% would have kept spending within the Gann limits.

What would a YES vote do?

As the economy recovers and tax revenues increase, City spending could once again escalate upwards without voter approval or control.

A yes vote would loosen purse strings and increased fixed costs could threaten City finances in the future. What would a NO vote do? City spending would be limited to current levels with inflation and population based increases. Cuts to Fire, Paramedic or other services are NOT necessary under current City service levels.

A reduction or refund of taxes may occur and could prevent future City sponsored tax measures.

Even if the City spending levels were to exceed the State Constitutional limits, the Council could reduce any type of spending, not just limited to Fire and Law Enforcement.

A NO vote would keep Council members focused on reducing wasteful spending.

La Habra Heights voters recently defeated tripling the Road Tax by 2-1 margin and voted against November's Proposition 30 State Tax Increase by over 2-1 margin.

Stephen Blagden

George Edwards

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Created: May 2, 2013 14:24 PDT
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