Lead Story Politics West Edition

Measure P would raise Compton’s sales tax

COMPTON — Voters here June 7 will decide if the city’s current sales tax of 9 percent will increase to 10 percent.  In February, the City Council unanimously voted to add the measure to the primary election ballot.

Measure P, also known as the Vital City Services and Neighborhood Protection Measure, is a proposed ordinance to add a one percent sales tax increase that will provide additional revenue to fund public services, such as repairing local streets, sidewalks and increased street lighting.

It also will provide funding to hire more public safety personnel including sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and paramedics, expand gang and drug prevention programs, economic development, youth job training programs and improve parks.

The 1 percent sales tax increase will affect residents and non-residents alike on all sales in Compton stores. Sales tax is not charged on groceries and prescriptions.

Proponents of the measure say Measure P would raise around $7 million per year in general fund revenue for Compton. The general fund is the city’s main, unspecialized fund.

“The city has several funds for specific purposes, but then we have this main catch-all fund, where personal costs come out of, cost for law enforcement, sheriff’s department, it’s our general obligation fund,” Compton City Attorney Craig Caldwell said.

The ordinance requires an appointed Citizens Oversight Committee to monitor the spending. Also, all expenditures are subject to an independent annual audit procedure to make sure it’s in agreement with the requirements of the proposed ordinance.

“Measure P is Compton’s own economic stimulus program and will create a mandatory minimum of 35 percdent local hiring for Compton residents and priority bidding for local businesses and contractors per our city’s local hiring ordinance and community benefits legislation approved by the City Council in 2013,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown said.

“Most importantly, Measure P does not have a sunset clause which will allow the city to reduce property taxes for homeowners in the long term.”

If voters approve Measure P, the number one priority is to repave all the major streets in the city, including Wilmington and Rosecrans avenues, and Compton, El Segundo, Greenleaf, Artesia and Long Beach boulevards. Repairs on Central Avenue will begin in the next 30 days, Brown said, and residents will start to see improvements before the end of the year.

“The city plans to take advantage of the state’s I-Bank Program that provides cities with funding for infrastructure up front with a low-interest repayment plan,” Brown said. “This program will allow residents to enjoy the benefits of Measure P before the end of 2016 and create jobs for local residents.”

However, not everyone is on board with the measure. Former City Clerk Charles Davis and Haskins Caldwell Watch President Jackie Barra wrote an argument against it.

“Years ago when I was city clerk, we thought about doing the same kind of sales tax initiative and discovered it would be an aggressive tax for those least able to afford it, that is to say people that can’t drive to another city to buy goods and services and also it would hurt most of our major retailers, because if you’re going to buy something that will cost $1,000, $10 is $10. You might go to another city to buy the same item,” Davis said.

The biggest concern for most opponents is that they believe the tax is designed to pay for bonds the mayor and City Council are trying to sell.

“I don’t the trust the true intentions of what the increase in revenue will go towards,” said attorney Marcus Musante, a Compton resident who is also running for Congress in the June 7 election.

Musante said the money is not guaranteed to go to fixing potholes and even if it were, it would probably take $100 million to fix all the streets in the city.

“If you don’t trust Measure P, how are you going to trust them spending hundreds and millions of dollars?” he asked

Barra has lived in Compton for more than 48 years. After working her full-time job, she’s been walking door-to-door passing out a flier informing residents why they should vote against Measure P.

“My main reason for opposing is the strain that it will have on senior citizens who are on a fixed income, as well as low-income families,” Barra said.

The mayor disputes opponents who say the city wants the sales tax increase to pay for bonds, saying it is illegal and impossible for Compton to pass Measure P, a sales tax, and convert the tax into a bond, which is attached to property tax bills.

“The state Board of Equalization approved the sales tax for the ballot and maintains oversight of sales and use taxes,” Brown said. “But, don’t take my word for it, please call the State Board of Equalization and they can confirm that Measure P is a sales tax and not a bond or property tax.

In contrast, the same committee supporting “No on Measure P” is the same committee that supported the Compton school board’s recently passed bond Measure S, a $350 million bond to be paid by Compton property owners through a property tax.

“Measure P is not a bond and will not raise property taxes but the School Board’s Measure S was and has raised property taxes,” Brown said.

There will be a Measure P Town Hall Meeting on June 4 at 10 a.m. at the Dollarhide Community Center, 301 N. Tamarind Ave., where more information about the measure will be discussed.

Anyone interested in becoming part of the Citizen Oversight Committee can contact the city clerk or a council representative.