August 12, 2012 in Uncategorized
(Los Alamitos, 8/12/2012) With all the excitement about the filing deadline for City Council being extended, among other things, I neglected to get our Highlands’ Guy’s Thursday column for last week up. My bad! Here’s a followup to H.G’s column from the previous Thursday, “The Business Component of Community Development.”
In today’s piece, HG looks at options for keeping Los Alamitos solvent. This is pretty timely, with the increasing municipal bankruptcies in California. Even more significantly with both state and federal budgets wildly out of control, the City can probably expect significant decreases in funding from the state and the feds in the years ahead.
Once again, HG seems to be looking forward more than many of the people at City Hall.
by Highlands’ Guy: Last week we discussed some of the ways, and reasons, why City staffers should refocus some of their energy with a more concerted effort on the business community.
Many civic entities around the U.S. have experienced a big reduction of their public coffers. In addition to the impact of ever increasing public employee salaries and benefits, the reasons include a drop in property values resulting in a lessening in property tax revenues as well as a reduction in sales tax dollars. This is further impacted by the complications of the Utility (Telephone) Users Tax applications.
The property tax valuations are a bit harder to address than the other forms of revenue. But I believe there are some things our city government does have control over that can support this sector.
One of the most basic is good schools. Folks are willing to pay more for a house to be in a good school district. The city fathers should do whatever they can to support LAUSD programs and infrastructure. This could certainly take place in the mutually utilized and maintained facilities such as the Oak gym and various parks.
Crime statistics, the condition of roadways, street lighting, flora, signage, utilities, public architecture, all contribute to how a city is viewed. And our city leaders can affect these components of what makes a city a desirable place to live. They, meaning city elected and non-elected public servants, need to study and pay attention to all these kinds of issues. And not just as a part of the General Plan (very expensive) update, but daily, weekly, and monthly. Who has been in charge of making sure the current General Plan provision have been followed? [ad]
The continuance of the benefits from the Utility Users Tax may, or may not, take care of itself after the November elections. We will have a chance to dip back into the pockets of those using any form of electronic communications within the city borders.
It seems at the same time we may also have the option of cutting into the tax base by reducing the percentage of the tax. Just on the surface this does seem to be the most apropos time to do so, but is really being used as a lure to pass an updated Telephone Users Tax.
The other area that is available to altering, in favor of the city as a whole, are salaries and benefits. I know this can be a touchy subject, but hey, city personnel are our employees and as such should expect their compensation to rise and fall in the same direction as the city funds move.
Perhaps hiring an outside municipal employment expert and negotiator, or firm, with a proven track record on getting the best bang for ‘our’ buck is called for. Heck, even if they come back and tell us we should be happy with the current contracts, so be it. At least we will can enter the next fiscal year with a better handle on reality.
This brings us to the last bastion of our tax revenue stream, and probably the easiest one to address, sales tax. We have the exoskeleton in place. Drive down our (2) major streets and you cannot help but notice the empty spaces. And over the last couple of years Seal Beach and Cypress have seen a big influx of new businesses. So, it is evident that the entrepreneurs, large and small, are out there looking.
I can only conclude that we need to do a better job at identifying and bringing in new businesses. Some hard work and innovative ideas are called for. Let’s see how prospective council members address this issue.
“Economic development over the past two centuries has taken most of humanity from lives that were brutal, ignorant and short, to personal health and security, material comfort and knowledge that were unknown to the elites of the wealthiest and most powerful societies in earlier times.”
-Ross Garnaut (1946-). Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Australian National University and both a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Professorial Fellow of Economics at The University of Melbourne.
…And that’s just the way I see it.