This election year, voters in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale will have the most important decision to make regarding the future of their cities and the Antelope Valley since incorporation, with Measure LC and Measure AV on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Election Day is Nov. 3. However, as many voters received their mail-in ballots within the past few days, decision time is here.
Lancaster’s Measure LC and Palmdale’s Measure AV would increase each city’s sales tax by three-quarter cent. Los Angeles County’s current sales tax rate is 9.5%. If the measures are successful the sales tax rate in both cities would increase to 10.25%, the maximum allowable sales tax rate in the state. That amount is equivalent to a three-cent increase on a $3.50 cup of coffee.
All of the money raised would stay in the cites to help protect Lancaster and Palmdale’s long-term financial stability and protect essential city services such as 911 emergency response. The revenue would also help maintain streets, keep public areas safe and clean for all, support economic recovery and local job creation, and maintain veterans, senior, mental health, youth, homelessness and other community programs.
The ballot measures require strict fiscal accountability including an independent citizens’ oversight committee that can meet with leaders about what the community needs.
Forty-two out of 88 cities in LA County previously passed local sales tax measures. Lancaster and Palmdale aren’t the only cities in the county with a sales tax measure on the Nov. 3 ballot. Signal Hill and West Hollywood also have a proposed three-quarter cent sales tax increase to preserve their local funding and services.
Measures LC and AV are so important to the future of both cities and the Antelope Valley that Lancaster and Palmdale are working together. Both city councils approved the sales tax measures for the Nov. 3 ballot.
“The two cities are currently talking about setting up their own redevelopment agencies,” Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said.
The cities can work together to bring businesses to the Antelope Valley and things such as a convention center.
The proposed sales tax increases also have the support of Republicans, Democrats, the local chambers of commerce, ministerial association and business owners, including automobile dealerships.
Lancaster’s Measure LC would raise about $12.8 million annually in local funds to help maintain city and community services. Palmdale’s Measure AV (the city tried to get Measure P but the City of Pasadena got there first) would bring in an estimated $12 million.
All of that money would remain in both cities, untouchable by Los Angeles County and the state.
“You can’t continually depend on other organizations and groups that have the ability to take our money and pass on their costs continually,” Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer said.
Antelope Valley Taxpayer Advocates Committee Treasurer Mark Bozigian said this is strategic; it is about local control.
“Either this Valley starts to say, ‘We need resources to get where we want to go which is to control our own destiny,’ or we’re going to let LA continue to take all the money and spend it where it wants,” he said.
The tax measures could be game changers for the Antelope Valley.
“To actually do things to advance the Antelope Valley, to actually invest, not just having to cut here and just barely make your budget work,” Bozigian said. “It’s invest every single year in whatever the community wants.”
Lancaster and Palmdale both face challenges caused by the current economic downturn during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Palmdale has a projected $5.4 million deficit for fiscal 2020-21. Lancaster has a combined $18.7 million deficit for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Fiscal Years because of steep declines in sales tax, property tax and state funding revenues.
LA County is facing its own fiscal crisis even though the Board of Supervisors approved changes last week to increase the county’s planned spending to a record $37.6 billion for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year — $2.7 billion higher than anticipated using money left over from last year.
Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics. The county will have to pay for it some way.
“They have to make it up some where,” Crist said. “Where are they going to get it? Us.”
A possible future countywide three-quarter cent sales tax measure in 2022 would benefit the county and bring little relief to the cities. Lancaster and Palmdale cannot control how the county would spend that money.
“They’re going to go for it,” Crist said. “They’re going to go for that extra money and if we don’t get it first then we can’t control what the county spends that money.”
Lancaster and Palmdale get about 25 cents on the dollar for every dollar put in.
An example of Measure H, the 2017 quarter-cent countywide sales tax increase to address homelessness and services and prevention, raises an estimated $355 million annually.
Palmdale contributes approximately $4.625 million each year. The city receives approximately $160,000 annually in return
Cities such as Santa Monica and Long Beach receive Measure H funding but do not contribute because they have reached the maximum sales tax rate.
“The money in the Antelope Valley is going everywhere else to solve problems,” Bozigian said. “If our residents don’t pass it in 2020, 2022, the county will pass one and we don’t get to control it.”