Whether it’s the annual car registration or the monthly water bill – fees and taxes imposed on the state, county and city level have an impact on the budgets of Long Beach businesses and households.
Starting this fiscal year, Long Beach residents are required to pay a new stormwater parcel tax, which was approved by voters as part of the Measure W – or Safe Clean Water – ballot measure in 2018. Annual property tax bills arriving this month include a line item labeled SCW (Safe Clean Water), which contains the amount to be paid for the total square footage of impermeable surface on the property, at 2.5 cents per square foot. On the state level, car owners have been affected by the most recent in a series of gas tax increases mandated by Senate Bill 1, which went into effect on July 1, 2019, and increased gas prices by 5.6 cents per gallon.
In March of next year, voters in the City of Long Beach will be asked to decide on a permanent extension of Measure A, a 1% addition to the local sales tax, which has brought the sales tax in Long Beach to the maximum rate allowed in California, 10.25%.
The measure was proposed and approved by voters as a general tax, meaning the city is not legally bound to use Measure A revenues for costs associated with infrastructure and public service. However, the city council passed a resolution of intent, stating that it would prioritize the proceeds of Measure A for city services and investments in those areas, prior to voters’ approval of the measure on June 7, 2016.
Susan Shelley, vice president of communications of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, expressed concerns over the prevalence of general tax measures passed on the state and local level. “We’re currently paying the highest taxes in the country, here in the state of California,” Shelley said. “We have all the highest taxes and there’s never enough money,” she added. “The reason for that is they’ve overpromised on pensions.”
Grace Yoon, a budget manager with the City of Long Beach, confirmed that at least a portion of Measure A revenues has been used to cover pension costs, as a portion of the overall costs associated with maintaining public safety employees. “It’s not just their salary, it’s their fully-loaded costs,” Yoon explained. Those costs, she noted, include pension costs for the respective positions.
In addition to a potential extension of Measure A to be considered by voters next year, costs for several city services will be increasing as the new fiscal year commences. As part of the city’s FY 2020 budget, the city council approved a total of 141 new fees and fee increases, including a $10 increase in passport processing fees, $10 increases on a variety of parking citations and several new fees imposed by Long Beach Development Services.
Earlier this year, the city council also approved a two-step increase in refuse rates. The first phase, which went into effect on March 1, increased rates for the weekly collection of 100-gallon carts from $24.11 to $26.52. Starting this month, rates were further increased to $28.99. Last month, the council approved a 12% increase in water rates, which also went into effect on October 1.
In an effort to review the over 2,800 fees imposed by the City of Long Beach, this year city staff initiated a citywide, multi-year study. “Our goal is to go through every single department or relevant fee and do an analysis of what those charges are,” Yoon said. The city’s fee schedules will be reviewed by a team of hired consultants and city staff, one department at a time, over the next six years. “It will be a comprehensive study,” Yoon said. The first departments scheduled for review are Development Services, Parks Recreation and Marine, and Health and Human Services.