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March 22nd, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
Deficits, Surpluses and the Challenges of Appropriation, as Told by Mayor Hammond
It would seem that on April 4, 2009—along with the official opening of a 28,000-square foot library on Myrtle Avenue—Monrovians will have their insatiable but well-deserved hopes for a tax break realized at long last. Indeed, while countless cities across the nation feel the pangs of recession, Monrovia property owners will receive a collective $280,000 tax rebate – a stimulus, if you will.
In 2006, local voters approved a $16 million bond allocated to construct a new library through Measure L, effectively sentencing themselves to 30 years of cold, hard taxation. The price was immense, but the payoff far surpassed it, for just a few months later, fast-paced construction on the institution began and now the wait is nearly over. Better still, the project came in under budget and the city council unanimously voted to allow property owners, commercial included, to reap the benefits or the surplus.
At a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Hammond reported on the disposition of Measure L. He clarified that the surplus of money from Measure L, something he attributes to good fortune in a down-turning market as far as construction costs, is restricted to the library. It cannot be spent to quell the bleak district budget or go towards an unrelated organization. He said that although that would be convenient, it is, regrettably, illegal.
Instead, the Council resolved to redistribute the money to those who pay Measure L taxes. That means the excess money will be reinvested through the same $16 million bond, thus reducing annual property tax bills by a sweet $18 per residential property. For vacant and commercial properties, the return will be calculated using rate formulas.
But it’s a onetime shot. The bond tax will resume its normal rate following the one-year reduction Monrovians will see in the fiscal year 2009-2010.
One could have easily predicted, however, that bad news was inevitably on its way. This year has been economically abysmal for the state of California at best and, of course, Monrovia is not exempt. In November of last year 67% of voters declared that construction on the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension would resume through Measure R. Clearly, taxpayers will see proof of this in the coming years—but they, by no means, stand alone in the struggle. At the same City Council Meeting, Mayor Hammond and his fellow council members (Lutz and Adams chief among them) discussed the issue of a reduction in sales tax contributions. The mayor stated that because they are not flowing in quite as steadily, the city will similarly struggle to uphold its competitive economy.
The city’s skillful spending, however, cannot be discounted in this discussion. For without it, the current state of Monrovia’s budget might look more desolate yet. In fact, while surrounding cities have trouble avoiding the looming possibility of a surplus of outside grant and assistance funds, Monrovia has consistently gotten around that. When cities have unspent money at the end of the fiscal year, the money to be allocated in the ensuing year will be reduced by that amount. Hence, a budget surplus is not always good news. But for Monrovia, this has never been a threat and many are pondering why exactly that is.
Simple, says Mayor Hammond. One can credit the constant state of construction, as evidenced through the highly publicized Measure L, and rigorous investment in community development projects.
In short, the fiscal year in Monrovia might be a struggle, as it will be for surrounding regions and for the nation as a whole. But with the promise of advancement and the building up of the city, the long term disposition of Monrovia is still the patient expectation of and planning for prosperity.
By Emily Litvack