City of Covina Utility Tax, Measure C (June 2008)
Measure C authorized renewal of a $5.5 million user's utility tax. The pre-existing tax was set to expire in March 2009. The Covina city council voted to place the measure on the ballot. A similar ballot measure, lost at the polls in March 2007.
The original Covina utility tax was instituted in 1992 by a vote of the city council. This led to a successful recall effort--all five members of the Covina city council were kicked out of office for imposing the 6% tax. The UUT was rescinded effective October 31, 1993 after the new Council was seated. Then, in 1994, the new city council members approved a five-year 8.25% utility tax. In 1995, that tax was submitted on an advisory-only ballot to the voters who approved it, with 54% in favor.
In December 1995, the tax was reduced to 7%. In February 1998, it was reduced to 5.5%.
In 1999, voters (by 55.5%) approved a 6% tax.
Opponents of the tax argued that the Covina City Council had been irresponsible with tax dollars, broken its promises and couldn't be trusted. John Wilcox, a former member of the city council, agreed to a previous tax increase if the city council would adopted Resolution 98-5897. That resolution said that the city would use funds from the utility tax funds broken down into 25% for street repairs, 18% for the library, 18% for parks and recreation, 34% for public safety, and 5% for council discretionary needs. Four years later, the council backed away from Resolution 98-5897, and replaced it with Resolution 03-6292, which allowed the city council to spend funds from the UUT however it desired.
Additional objections are:
- The Covina City Council has loaned millions of dollars;
- It pays high salaries--the city manager of Covina earns $184,840 a year;
- It funds retirements that are higher than those in the private sector.
- Full-time Covina city employees don't pay for Social Security.
The 2007 Christmas Parade
Covina City Council member Peggy Delach has said that voters who rejected the March 2007 utility tax are responsible for the fact that the city canceled the 2007 Christmas Parade. Opponents of the tax have counter-argued that the tax extension voters rejected in March 2007 was (and is) still in effect through March 2009, which means that there could not have been a revenue decline at the time the Covina City Council axed the traditional celebration.
Sample ballot controversy
Sample ballots printed by the city did not include opposition arguments. Opponent Steve Millard, an anti-tax activist, saud that he and others were not given the information they needed from the city in order to correctly file opposition arguments to appear on the ballot.
- California 2008 local ballot measures
- Local utility taxes in California
- California Utility User Taxes
- Pasadena Star News, "Flap Brews Over Utility Tax," March 25, 2008
- Los Angeles Times, Covina, Torrance try to ratify telephone taxes, May 28, 2008
- Los Angeles Times, Seven ballot measures seek money for schools, May 28, 2008
- Pasadena Star News, "Covina declares fiscal crisis," March 3, 2008
- Covina needs the tax
- Question city policies
- Whittier Daily News, "Covina utility tax stirs," December 16, 2006
- Los Angeles Times, Covina, Torrance try to ratify telephone taxes
- The UUT will reinforce an unsatisfactory status quo
- City has reserves