Community East Edition Local News

Whittier to ask voters to approve sales tax hike

WHITTIER — Local voters will be asked March 3 to approve a three-quarter cent sales tax increase which would bring in an estimated $6.3 million a year to the city.

The City Council unanimously approved the action Nov. 12.

The added funds would be used for  “enhancement of police staffing and services; road, sidewalk and infrastructure improvements; parks and community services programs; and other general services,” said a report by Assistant City Manager Shannon K. DeLong and City Clerk Rigoberto Garcia.

Whittier sales tax, known formally as a transactions and use tax, is currently 9.5%. The increase, which would need a simple majority to pass, would make the city’s sales tax 10.25%, the state limit for cities.

Residents also will select three City Council members. The terms of Mayor Joe Vinatieri, First District Councilman Josue Alvarado and District 3 Councilwoman Kathy Warner are ending. Council terms are four years, the mayor’s term is two years. The mayor is elected at large, council members by district. The filing period began Nov. 11 and goes through Dec. 6.

The council’s formal action Nov. 12 was to adopt resolutions placing the Whittier Neighborhood Safety and Community Services Measure on the ballot to the voters, authorizing council members to write an argument in favor and/or against the measure; providing for the filing of rebuttal arguments and introducing and conducting the first reading on Ordinance No. 3109 adding Municipal Code Chapter 3.14 imposing the neighborhood safety and community services transactions and use tax.

DeLong and Garcia, in their report, said the added funds are needed to keep the city financially sustainable. The issue has been under study the past two years, they said.

“In June 2018, the City Council adopted a fiscal year 2018-19 budget that was balanced using the city’s pension reserve fund, and appointed an ad hoc committee to study the city’s fiscal long-term sustainability. In June 2019, the council adopted a fiscal year 2019-20 budget that was balanced using the remaining $3 million of the city’s pension reserve fund.

“Projected budget deficits are expected to exceed $19 million by fiscal year 2022-23, the report states.

A Los Angeles-based consulting firm, FM3, conducted a survey and found support, DeLong and Garcia said.

Norwalk has placed a similar sales tax hike question on its municipal ballot March 3 while Bellflower is considering a sales tax, hotel tax and business tax increase on its ballot Nov. 3, 2020. A number of other areas cities are reportedly considering their own sales tax hike.

By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer