Measure N is a ballot initiative to repeal the Utility User Tax that all Glendale residents currently pay. If you look at your utility bill, (Water, Power, Gas) You will see a 7% Utility users tax. If you vote Yes on N, the City will be forced to stop charging you the 7% tax that you currently pay. A Yes on N will immediately save you 7% on all your utility bills. That’s $91 per person in your house per year. For a household of 4 that’s a savings of $364.00 per year.
I did not know I can vote to stop paying taxes!
Certain taxes you can vote to stop paying, but the city will never give you that chance by themselves. Once you agree to tax yourself. The city will want to tax you forever. But a group of citizens worked really hard to collect enough signatures (over 1500 signatures) to give you the right to repeal the utility user tax. All that hard work will only come to fruition on June 7, 2016, if you vote Yes on N. By voting Yes on N you tell the city you decide when you want to tax yourself and they should not take your tax money for granted.
I hear the city saying this will hurt city services.
It is unfortunate that the city does not have a proactive can-do attitude on saving the taxpayers money and providing services competitively. In any other service industry, you have multiple businesses competing for your business/money by trying to provide more value, better service for less cost. We all know that competition in business is good for consumers because it forces innovation, creative solutions, and choice to the consumer.
The city does not need to compete because you, the tax payer, is a captive customer. It is not forced to innovate or come up with new more efficient solutions. They have a monopoly on you. You can’t just switch cities. So instead of competing to deliver the best service, they tell you if you don’t pay us all we want, we will cut your services. Just like a monopoly will do. So the taxpayer can play the victim and succumb, or can rise up and withhold tax payments. By voting Yes on N, you send a message to the to respect your hard earned tax dollars and demand the city deliver results.
So how do you force city management to compete, innovate and become efficient?
Glendale History teaches us that when forced with budget cuts, Glendale comes thru in flying colors. In 2008 Glendale lost the redevelopment money and as a result cut 406 employees. By 2013 Glendale had approximately 1550 employees when it used to have almost 2000 employees. But time and time again, council members took pride that despite the reduced level of employees, Glendale continued to receive the same level of service. Which brings up the question as to did we have so many excess employees in 2008 in the first place? And how much more excess employees do we still have?
The fact is when the city does not have to compete in providing service, and the taxpayer is a captive customer, there is no incentive to be efficient. The need to compete and innovate to become efficient must be forced upon to test the optimal level of service that can be provided for a given dollar. Otherwise the easy way out is to keep charging the captive customers, that the taxpayer, more and more.
A more recent example of forced innovation and competitiveness is the very recent elimination of retired employee heath benefits. In October 2015, City council eliminated $229 million in unfunded OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits). Why did the city management and city council decide in 2015 to eliminate the OPEB? Bear in mind that the OPEB kept rising each year from from $109 Million in 2009 to $229 million in 2014. Well in 2016 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board updated the rules requiring unfunded liabilities to be listed as an accounting item on the Comprehensive Annual Financial report. Failure to comply with the new GASB rules will result in Glendale losing $50 million in Federal grants. Listing the unfunded liability on the CAFR will impact how Glendale can borrow money and how much it will have to pay for bonds. (see staff report page 4 middle 2 paragraphs)
So with a strike of the pen, they just eliminated $229 million in unfunded OPEB. It turns out there was no legal requirement for the city to provide all this Other Post Employment Benefits in the first place. It was just a freebie given away to employees at the taxpayer expense. Yet another example that outside force is needed to stimulate change towards efficiency. The city employee’s have a vested interest in maximizing their own benefits at taxpayer expense.
Without external pressure on city management, there is simply no incentive to improve. Taxpayers need to let the city know they expect proactive performance and not last minute damage control. City managements needs to understand that the taxpayers expects the best value. Having consistently failed to deliver, a Yes on N will hold city management accountable to taxpayers and their hard earned money.