UUT Repeal Goes Down to Defeat

Measure N campaign is a vote to support South Pasadena’s utility users tax (UUT). Photo by Henk Friezer

Measure N, the initiative that was trying to repeal the utility users tax (UUT) for South Pasadena, has lost.

The tally is 1,623 for repeal and 6,000 opposing the repeal.

The UUT provides about 12 percent of the city’s general fund, which translates to about $3.4 million of the city’s approximate $25 million budget.

The UUT provides funds for public safety, fire, senior programs, a school resource officer, crossing guards, street and sidewalk repairs, public library services, the July 4th parade, and summer concerts, among other items. The tax is on water, power, cell phone, cable, electricity and gas bills, among others. All the money generated from the UUT stays within South Pasadena.

The UUT was first passed by So Pas voters in 1983, and was renewed by voters again in 2011, ostensibly for a 10-year term. The last time the UUT faced the voters, it barely passed with just above 51 percent of the vote.

However, this time it passed by a significantly larger margin at 78.71 percent of the vote.

Although victorious, Edward E. Corey, a local attorney that worked to defeat the repeal effort, said it was time to pay attention to the city’s spending issues.

“I am grateful that we put together a win.” Corey said. “But we have to pay attention to what the city is doing when it comes to spending. As we move forward, we have to be aware of the future financial burdens.”

The local group that was trying to get the tax repealed was gratified with the losing effort because people are now aware of the challenges that the city is facing when it comes to pension liability and employees’ salaries.

“This was a wake-up call,” Ed Ristow, repeal supporter, has said repeatedly during the campaign. “We cannot go on the way we have been going on without dire financial circumstances.”

Ristow was the former So Pas city treasurer from 1972 – 1995 and a longtime So Pas resident. He’s lived here since 1965 and has seen the city increase its spending exponentially over the years.

“We are going to have the same problems with the UUT that they said we were going to have if the UUT was repealed,” Ristow has said. “Mark my words, it is going to happen.”

The group seeking the repeal was supported by a Tea Party faction known as the California Taxpayers Union in Pasadena. The UUT Repeal group was known as Committee to Stop the South Pasadena UUT.

If the UUT had been repealed, the City Council had approved the following severe cuts to city services.

Those cuts would include the layoffs of 12 public safety employees, including three paramedics-firefighters, and six police cadets. It would also call for the elimination of crossing guards, police air support, and a school safety officer. The special programs at the library would be canceled, technology upgrades and capital improvements would be reduced. Reduced hours are also possible. There would also be a reduction of about $1 million a year in street repairs and maintenance. The recreation department and all its programs would be eliminated including those for seniors and children along with the elimination of community-based crime-prevention programs.

The So Pas UUT comes up for another vote in 2020 and those in favor of a repeal are planning on getting it on the ballot again.