When I read the argument in favor of Garden Grove’s Measure Y it reminds me of a quote by Ben Franklin, “Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest”. Please follow me as I explain what I believe are, based on city documents, the tricks and treachery that we local taxpayers have been subjected to at the hands of the current Garden Grove political machine.
The Garden Grove City Council/Redevelopment Agency wants so much to be known as a tourist destination that they provide incentives for developers including but not limited to the construction of public facilities such as public buildings, streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, sewers, storm drains, water systems and street lights. And where does the money come from to construct these improvements? I think you taxpayers know the answer to that question. (See Attachments.)
In the 2002 elections, Measure N was placed onto the ballot touting “Measure N (an increase from 10% to 13% in the Hotel Visitor’s Tax or HVT) will provide badly needed funds for police, fire and other essential city services” and “will provide nearly $2 million dollars per year to the City of Garden Grove”. So how is it that we now need Measure Y? Att 2, (See Attachments.)
Contained in the minutes of the March 30, 2004 Garden Grove City Council meeting are discussions of the 2002/2003 budget wherein the city manager confirmed that GGPD had 162 authorized staffing positions but we actually had only 153 sworn police officers at that time. According to the minutes we also had 9 police vacancies at the time of this particular council meeting. (See Attachments.)
While reviewing the City of Garden Grove 2011-2012 Budget, the GGPD mission statement lists 4 goals but not one of them includes the addition of any more police officers that would “mean safer streets and greater security”. As a matter of fact this particular budget allows for an authorized staffing of 172 full time sworn police officers. Also, the 2011 GGPD Annual Report notes that we have only 159 full time sworn police officers which appears to make the 2002 HVT increase fall miserably short of the intended result. (Att 4 & Att 5)
Now comes 2012’s Measure Y and again just like in 2002, it’s proponents want the public to believe that an increase in the HVT from 13% to 14.5% “will provide badly needed funds for police, fire and other essential city services” and “will provide nearly $1.5 million dollars per year to the City of Garden Grove”. Déjà vu anyone? In comparing 2002’s Measure N to 2012’s Measure Y not only do we appear to have lost $500,000.00 somewhere, we have not added any more police to meet our authorized staffing. (Att 6)
One final point of significance that the incumbents are not talking about and what the other candidates need to get a handle on is the April of 2002 Certificates of Participation. In this document the City of Garden Grove put up city property as collateral to secure a loan of $22,735,000.00 to pay for projects along the Harbor Corridor. It is interesting to note that the payments for this loan began in 2003 with the final payment scheduled to be made in the 30th year. According to this schedule the city is paying $1.5 million dollars a year from the year 2005 until the year 2032. Recall that $1.5 million is the exact amount of money that Measure Y is projected to bring in to the city as a result of an increased HVT. If these figures are correct then we may not benefit from this measure until the year 2033. (See Attachments.)
Is it tricks and treachery when city officials are providing incentives to developers to build here with the intent to bring in tourists, and then tell our citizens that we have too many tourists using our city services and we need to tax them in order to “protect the local taxpayers” while the local taxpayers are paying for the developer incentives? I’m going to answer this question by voting No on Measure Y.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Measure would raise the city’s tax on short-term visits to 14.5 percent.
Proposition Y asks Garden Grove voters to increase the taxes paid by tourists and other visitors who stay in the city’s hotels in order that those visitors “pay their fair share” for city services like police, fire, street, parks and maintenance. Without the increase, conditions “may” deteriorate, the city says.
The “fair-share” argument seems to be vogue when justifying taxes. But how fair is the increase proposed in Garden Grove?
It is more convenient than fair for people who live in Garden Grove to increase taxes on people who don’t reside live in the city. It seems particularly egregious considering these visitors already are charged 13 percent on top of their bill every time they check out of one of the facilities covered by the city’s hotel visitors’ tax – a tax city residents don’t have to pay.
Normal property taxes and sales taxes apply to these hotels, motels and similar destinations. Those costs certainly are passed through to their patrons, as well as the existing 13-percent hotel visitor’s tax approved by voters in 2002.
The proposed tax increase would raise the rate to 14.5 percent to raise an additional $1.5 million, the city estimates. This money is needed, the argument goes, because the state took away money from City Hall that Garden Grove planned to spend, which is one reason that, since 2009, 40 city positions have been eliminated, work furloughs imposed and salaries and benefits cut.
A property tax increase of 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation also has been approved by the City Council to pay for paramedic services, which works out to about $30 more a year for a typical homeowner, according to a Register report, on top of the existing 6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for that service.
Taxes seem popular in Garden Grove, at least at City Hall.
City officials tell us there is no organized opposition to the tax, yet. But how would people who spend only a day or a week in town organize against such a thing? On their behalf, the Register’s Editorial Board urges a No vote on Prop. Y.
The city argues the tax won’t be paid by local establishments, that businesses will merely collect it from their customers. But even the city acknowledges the potential harm taxes can inflict on businesses. The increased hotel tax, the city’s website points out, still won’t be as high as in neighboring Anaheim, retaining Garden Grove’s “strategic advantage of lower taxes when trying to attract tourists and business travelers.”
This kind of tax brinkmanship amounts to proclaiming: “Stay in Garden Grove hotels, where you will be taxed slightly less than elsewhere.” That strikes us as less-than-persuasive boosterism.
Perhaps most egregious is that there are establishments in Garden Grove, which, for whatever reason, the city believes don’t pay the existing tax. Prop. Y rewords city code to include them, specifying, among other things, “time-share” projects and “recreational vehicle spaces.” For establishments newly added, the tax increase won’t be a mere 1.5 percent. It will be a new tax of 14.5 percent.