Concerning Business License Tax

Letter to the Editor:

After attending the special meeting at the council chambers Monday night at 5:30 p.m., I walked away feeling disappointed by how our city government is treating its citizens in regard to more taxation than they are already subject to.

The meeting was unprofessional at best in front of a full room of concerned South Pasadenans who arrived on time. They were not able to get their power point presentation to work and fumbled with it for a solid ten minutes while everyone watched patiently. Both the interim city manager and the Finance Director got up and spoke, very defensively, adding several comments like “this is not a money grab” and “we started this process almost a year ago” that just upset most in the room because they all knew that this was a “money grab”. Many of the South Pasadena citizens who got up and spoke were very upset by the letter and were genuinely confused by whether they were exempt or not. One gentleman stood up and stated that no city had ever won a lawsuit filed against them for trying to enforce the very same tax that our city is trying to impose.

The timing of the letter that was sent out to all citizens in the city who received a 1099 demanding yet another tax was awkward at best for multiple reasons: On October 6th, a Los Angeles jury awarded an ex-South Pasadena police officer $4.8M who sued our city and won, because of a disability. Coincidence? I personally don’t believe it. Also, Governor Brown is imposing his 12 cent per gallon gas tax this month and the City is talking of raising the water rates, yet again. Additionally, the new Parcel Tax for the school district will be rolling out soon and now this? I had a conversation with a few people claiming that our city just isn’t the same anymore and they were looking to move away. I heard others say that this is the last straw and that they will fight any new taxes. We have high property values here because of our schools, but also because people love it here and don’t sell often keeping the demand for real estate high. It is episodes like this one that help erode the city’s reputation and turn off potential buyers and result in lower property values.

When the letter was sent out, it was not sent with a four page FAQ sheet. This FAQ sheet was handed out at the meeting. People who have lived here for many many years never knew anything about business “tax” for people who receive 1099s. The interim city manager even admitted that the city would refund three years of tax payments that some had come in and paid until they straightened the whole mess out. She admitted that the letter should not have gone out the way that it did and hinted that the policy will be going through a revision and reviewed by attorneys and then be voted on in 2018. What was most upsetting was that the City officials completely tried to manipulate their speech by back tracking, yet still stood their ground by insisting that there will be another tax for those that receive 1099 income.

I question the legality of what the City is trying to enforce and am concerned that it is now going to “pay” a consultant out of City funds to study the issue. I don’t believe the City can afford another lawsuit, if one is filed against it to fight this whole debacle, nor extra funds to “study” the issue.

We can only hope that Stephanie DeWolfe, the new city manager, can straighten this out quickly and abandon the idea of imposing additional taxes on our already overtaxed citizens.

– Kristin Roche
Concerned South Pasadenan