Long Beach voters will likely decide in March whether to indefinitely extend the city’s Measure A sales tax.
The City Council unanimously decided during its Tuesday, July 2, meeting, to ask City Attorney Charles Parkin to write up such an ordinance for the March ballot.
That ordinance, which would maintain Long Beach’s 10.25% sales tax if approved by voters, is expected to come back to the panel later this month.
Voters first passed Measure A in 2016 as a 10-year sales tax increase of 1 percent to fund public safety and infrastructure. Since then, it’s generated about $60 million per year, according to Assistant City Manager Tom Modica.
Including the increase, Long Beach receives 2 percent of the 10.25 percent sales tax. The state gets 6 percent, Metropolitan Transportation District gets 2 percent and Los Angeles County gets 0.25 percent. The county's Measure H one percent sales tax is paid in other parts of the county; Long Beach residents would pay 0.25 percent in fiscal 2023-2027 if the Measure A extension is approved.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Modica pointed to impacts Measure A’s funding have had on the city, which included maintaining 108 public safety positions, adding 41 more, repairing hundreds of miles of streets and creating a new Houghton Park Community Center.
In pitching the measure’s extension to the council, Modica said Long Beach needs this type of funding for a longer term than just 10 years.
“2027 really isn’t that far away,” he said, referring to when the tax is currently set to expire. “We have to make some decisions about whether those (public safety) positions are at risk for elimination.”
In addition to funding public safety and infrastructure, Modica said the tax’s extension would cover the $25 million the City Council voted in March to commit toward Community Hospital’s required seismic retrofit.
Without Measure A’s extension, Modica said, “we do not have a solution on how to pay for that $25 million.”
He said the only other avenue would be to make cuts to public safety and other departments.
Mayor Robert Garcia, for his part, said he supported the tax extension because of the funds it could continue to provide for Long Beach.
He noted that other agencies, like the South Coast Air Quality Management District or L.A. County, would likely propose sales tax hikes to fund their own projects. If those were approved, Garcia said, Long Beach’s sales tax would remain at 10.25% anyway.
The only difference with a Measure A extension, he said, is that the funds would stay in Long Beach.
“Long Beach voters will not be paying any more tax if Measure A is extended,” Garcia said. “But if these other measures pass, they will still be paying the same tax, but the money will not be going to supporting Long Beach.”
Council members, for their part, seemed to find that argument persuasive.
“As a taxpayer,” Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said, “I want to see my taxes spent in this community.”
Eighth District Councilman Al Austin agreed, noting that everything Measure A has funded are of the utmost concern for residents throughout Long Beach.
“I believe Measure A puts our city in a position to control our destiny,” he said. “Infrastructure, public safety and public health are priorities of this city.”