Why Should Westminster Taxpayers Trust Sales Tax Hike Revenue Would Be Used Prudently?

[Editor’s note: these are the edited comments delivered by OC Tax President Carolyn Cavecche to the Westminster City Council on June 22]

I want to start out by telling you all that I don’t envy you this evening. I understand personally the position you are in, and I understand that it is a very tough decision. As the directly-elected Mayor of Orange for the time that covered the Great Recession, as well as the elimination of Redevelopment, I know what it’s like to have millions of dollars in revenue drop from your funds overnight.  I know what it’s like to lay in bed at night worrying about how to pay for the services our community wants and expects, and getting eviscerated by political party representatives because I raised water rates and city fees to make sure those who were receiving the services were actually paying for them, and not being subsidized by the general fund.

But, for the City of Westminster, all it takes is a look back over the last few years of budgets to wonder, what has the plan been to work this community out of the hole it has been in for years?

Your property tax issue, while real, has been the reality for over 30 years, even in the good times.  The heavy reliance on Redevelopment to subsidize your general fund was, as you well know more than anyone, the killer for your budget; but even in 2013, just after the RDA’s elimination, your budget deficient was only just over $3 million dollars  – far smaller then the $10 million amount it is today.  Over the last 10 years your revenues have been growing at a total of 8%, but you have increased your spending by over $14 million – that’s up 35% for the same time period.

Even back in 2013, a Voice of OC article stated that your “Budget does little to address a built-in or structural deficit.”  That was three years ago.

For years, we have heard and read about the dire budget warnings in Westminster.  For years, you yourselves have been quoted individually stating that there is a fundamental problem that needs to be fixed.

And now the taxpayers are being asked to trust that millions more of their dollars will be handled prudently? If this sales tax measure passes, the taxpayers – those the OC Taxpayers Association feels they represent, as well – need to be given the confidence those dollars are going to be handled prudently.

Councilmember Carey, I do want to say I completely agree with the statements you made at the budget session, saying that going to the sheriff’s department is a bad idea financially, and I want to state on the record that OC Tax does agree with that. You’ll be paying the pensions, as she said very eloquently, you’ll be paying the pensions for the officers that are retired, and you have to start paying for the sheriffs department, as well.

The Family Financial Stability Index measures the financial stability of families with children under the age of 18.  In the most recent indicator, the cities in Orange County with the lowest level of family financial stability are Stanton and Westminster – one and two.

Increasing the sales tax is a regressive tax, hurting those who do not have the means or ability to take their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, your high volume purchasers and your business community will not have the same restrictions.

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