Pasadena seeks voter approval of Charter amendment to ensure continued funding of 911 responses, fire, paramedic and public health, and safety programs.
By Rena Kurlander
On Monday, July 27, 2020, the Pasadena City Council voted unanimously to place on the November 3, 2020 ballot the Pasadena City Services Protection Measure. The Measure is an amendment to the City of Pasadena Charter requiring approval of a majority of Pasadena voters.
The purpose of the Charter amendment is to maintain the longstanding transfer of funds from the City’s Light and Power Fund to the City’s General Fund. Emergency 911 response, fire, paramedics, homeless programs, senior services, street repairs and other community health and safety programs are funded through the City’s General Fund.
In its press release of July 28, 2020 (the Press Release), the City states that the relevant transfer provisions have been approved by voters seven times since the 1930s. Those transfer provisions, however, currently are being challenged in court on the basis that a portion of the electric rates so used are a tax that has not met the requirements of voter approval required by Proposition 218 and Proposition 26. The Press Release states that the Measure is not a new tax, does not raise taxes and does not raise utility rates. The Measure simply protects current funding levels to provide City services
According to the Press Release, COVID-19 has resulted in a $30 million revenue loss to the City; the City used reserve funds, deferred infrastructure projects and implemented other cost saving measures to maintain its current emergency response to the pandemic, public health programs and critical services. Failure to pass the Measure would result in the loss of approximately $18 million of annual transfers from the Light and Power Fund to the General Fund, with significant reductions to the supported City services.
If approved, the Measure will also require annual independent audits with public disclosure and reduce the Light and Power Fund transfer to not more than 12 percent, (previously as much as 16 percent). The funds will be under local control and will be spent for the benefit of Pasadena residents and businesses.