Council approves special election for new police facility

Claremont residents will again be called to action as the city council moves forward on a measure asking voters to approve a special parcel tax to finance a new $50 million public safety facility.

The special parcel tax will require a two-thirds approval by Claremont voters at a consolidated election to be held November 3, 2015.

On March 24, the city council opted for a 40-year parcel tax as its preferred method of financing for a new public safety facility. The special tax of $286 per parcel per year would generate approximately $3 million annually to be used to pay for debt issued to fund the proposed police station, which the city estimates will cost $50 million.

The council unanimously agreed that Claremont is in need of a new police station.

“I would liken it to having a sewer leakage in everybody’s home and when you face that condition, even if don’t have money to spend, you find a way to fix the leak,” Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “This is the city’s way of fixing a leak that needs to fixed, and this is the only mechanism we have to do that.”

Should the cost be less than $50 million, or grants be identified to pay for a portion of the station’s construction, the city council could take action at a later date to reduce the annual amount of tax or reduce the number of years during which it is collected. The city council cannot, however, increase the amount of the special parcel tax or extend the number of years for which the tax is collected.

Since residences and businesses would derive the same benefit from a new police station, a financing approach that ensures all residents pay the same amount was favored by the council.

In section 5 of the ordinance, it’s noted that nonprofits and institutional entities such as the Colleges would also benefit, therefore a financing mechanism was put in place to ensure they were not exempt.

Claremont’s Finance Director Adam Pirrie emphasized during the council meeting that this section of the ordinance had been revised. The phrase “unless such holder is by law exempt from taxation” has been replaced with “unless such holder is a governmental entity.”

“There was a concern that if we left the language as it was, then entities that are currently exempt from taxes such as Colleges, who held possessory interest in a piece of property owned by a government entity, would be exempt from the tax,” Mr. Pirrie explained. “We wanted to restrict that exemption to governmental entities only.”

Governmental entities like the city and the Claremont Unified School District will not pay the parcel tax.

Claremont voters generally rise to the occasion when asked to cast their ballots in a special election, particularly when it comes to the betterment of their community.

Last November, 11,043 of Claremont’s 21,129 registered voters (about 54 percent) showed up to the polls to weigh in on Measure W—the bond measure allowing the city to borrow revenue bonds to finance the acquisition of the Claremont water system.

In 2006, Measure S—a measure proposing that $12.5 million in general obligation bonds be sold to fund the acquisition of the 180-acre Johnson’s Pasture—was passed by 64 percent of Claremont voters. Of Claremont’s 20,679 registered voters at the time, 13,257 cast their ballots.

Jeff Descombes, a 51-year Claremont resident, believes the city is taking a step in the right direction and residents will support their efforts.

“The parcel tax is a fair and reasonable distributive approach,” he said. “I know the city will be intelligent in what it builds and how it finances that and how the revenues are spent. They’ve generally done a good job with it, so I approve.”

Placing a measure on the November ballot for a special election costs upwards of $80,000, including voter pamphlets and mailings. According to Mr. Pirrie, sufficient funding is available in the city’s current budget to fund the election. Since the March 2015 city council election didn’t take place, the funds originally intended for that contest are proposed to be used to pay for the costs of a special election for the new public safety facility.

“I’m proud as a council that we’ve gotten it to this point,” said Mayor Pro Tem Sam Pedroza just before the council unanimously approved adding the measure to the November ballot. “Let’s move it forward to our residents and leave it to our people to say yay or nay.”

Councilman Nasiali and Mayor Pro Tem Pedroza volunteered to compose written arguments in favor and/or against the ballot measure, with final submissions due to the city clerk by Wednesday, May 13.

For more information on the resolutions and the special election, visit the city’s website at www.ci.claremont.ca.us

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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