In an essay last week, we presented to the residents of Los Alamitos the answers to several commonly asked questions regarding Measure Y and how it will affect the future of our city.
After everything is said and done, our residents will have a choice on November 3rd. We must decide if our city moves forward boldly into the future or if we say no, and what happens when.
If we say yes, the opportunities for all citizens, and their children, open up to an optimistic, bright future, when programs are funded, the infrastructure is improved and thus the overall prospects for new jobs and keeping our families growing together into future.
But citizens of course, also have the right to vote no. Therefore, they should also understand what it will mean for our city if we reject Measure Y.
As mayor and mayor pro-tem of Los Alamitos, we cannot possibly overstate the critical link between the past and the future that is now in the hands of our voters.
• What has Los Alamitos done to delay a sales tax that other jurisdictions implemented long ago? Los Alamitos had been cutting everywhere possible for many years. Over the past ten years, Los Alamitos has cut 1/3rd of its staff. Additionally, to balance the 2020-2021 budget, we made the extremely difficult decision to cut funding for four police officers as well as the equivalent of 15 other full-time positions throughout the city.
• Were other options considered? Yes, every possible option was considered by the Los Alamitos Budget Committee, at numerous community meetings, and via multiple community surveys. The options included cutting all recreation programs, eliminating the police department, implementing a parcel tax, and many more. Every one of the other options considered either did not close the projected budget deficit or would result in Los Alamitos residents bearing the entire burden themselves (such as, from a parcel tax on each property in Los Alamitos). The fact remains that Measure Y is the only option that addresses the entire problem, while ensuring our residents’ continued quality of life.
• What will happen if Measure Y does not pass? Unfortunately, if Measure Y does not pass, the city simply will not have sufficient funding to maintain the quality of life, public safety, infrastructure maintenance, and programs our residents have come to expect and enjoy. Here’s what could happen:
o First, even with all the cuts that the City has already made, Los Alamitos will still be in a dire financial position. Without the approval of Measure Y, the City will be immediately forced to cut an additional $1.6 million to balance next year’s budget.
o If these cuts were not bad enough, they do not take into account the funding needed for necessary road repairs and infrastructure and neighborhood improvements throughout the City. Without this new revenue, the City will not be able to fund these essential services or repairs.
o Public safety will suffer. In recent years, Los Alamitos has had one of the quickest 911 response times in all of Orange County and our residents are proud to have our own responsive and engaged police department.
o Given that the police department makes up more than 50% of the Los Alamitos annual budget, additional significant cuts will have to be made resulting in decreased response times, insufficient resources to address theft, homelessness, school safety issues, and all the myriad other things our officers help with.
o Our wonderful recreation programs for youth and seniors may have to be eliminated. These programs cost money and without sufficient funds, every part of our budget will be affected. Our programs help keep children and teens engaged, learning, and out of trouble and our senior programs help keep our older residents active and interacting with others.
o The City’s infrastructure will fall into disrepair. Given the City’s budget positions, there are many needed road, park, and facilities project that have been placed on hold. If Measure Y does not pass, the lack of projects will negatively impact the quality our neighborhoods and our homes’ property values. Unfortunately, delaying needed maintenance kicks the can further down the road and makes the eventual necessary repairs even more expensive.
• If Measure Y does not pass, does this guarantee our sales tax will remain at its current low 7.75% rate? No, and this is an important fact: the legal maximum (without a legislative exemption) is an additional 1.5% sales tax. As you know, the state and many other county agencies are also in financial straits.
• Can another agency take our tax authority if we do not? It is extremely likely that if Los Alamitos does not enact Measure Y, the State of California, the County of Orange, or another governmental entity (like the Air Quality Management District) will impose the additional sales tax themselves. This means our rate would still increase but those funds would go to the state or other entity and would not go to benefit our residents or maintain our quality of life.
• What is the best outcome for Los Alamitos? If Measure Y passes, it will ensure those funds stay in Los Alamitos, where they will have the most impact on our community and where you would have a voice in how they are spent.
Most of us have, understandably, taken for granted the fact that our streets, parks and neighborhoods are safe, that we have a wonderful and extremely responsive police department, that we have great programs and opportunities for all who seek them, and that we have a thriving business community despite challenges from California regulations and this year’s pandemic.
In fact, these are the reasons people choose to live in Los Alamitos. This high quality of life exists despite substantial cuts made in Los Alamitos over the years. Unfortunately, there is nothing left to cut without our residents noticing a significant, precipitous, and likely irreversible decrease in the quality of life in Los Alamitos. We simply cannot allow this to happen.