Kevin Cody

PVE Parcel tax proposed for sixth time, to fund police

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Morning traffic control in Malaga Cove by Palos Verdes Estate police is among the services that might be lost if the city dismantles its police department and contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs. The city does not have traffic lights. Photo by Brad Jacobson (CivicCouch.com)

by Kevin Cody

A Palos Verdes Estates parcel tax that would generate $5 million for law enforcement services was recommended for approval by a staff report presented at Wednesday night’s city council meeting. (The council’s response to the report was not available at press time, but will be available on the city’s website at PVEstates.org).

“If the residents desire to maintain the local Palos Verdes Estates Police Department, $5 million is necessary to balance the budget,” the staff report states.

The proposed tax would impose a $342 tax on every parcel in the city and a 20 cent per square foot tax on building improvements. Property valuations would not be a factor in the tax. The tax would appear on county property tax bills for nine years.

The staff report proposes putting the parcel tax on the April 10, 2018, city ballot. A similar tax was approved by voters four times since 1980. But when voters were asked to approve the parcel tax for a fifth time, Measure D on the March 7, 2017, ballot, the measure received just 60 percent approval. Passage required 66.67 percent support.

Measure D’s  failure represented a 25 percent cut to the city’s 2017-18 budget. City revenue for the year is estimated at $16.1 million while expenses are budgeted at $23.2 million. To cover the shortfall the council has instituted $1.2 million in budget cuts, transferred $1.5 million from other city funds and $1.5 million from the city’s reserves, according to the staff report.

The proposed parcel tax would be earmarked for police services because the police department’s $7.1 million budget is the city’s largest single expense.

The staff report states that the city might be able to reduce police costs by disbanding the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department and contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. But the report stresses that contracting with LACSD “would not likely result in large cost savings” because “public safety costs are relatively similar.”

The report also lists police services that would suffer should the city contract with the Sheriff.

Among the downsides to contracting with the Sheriff’s, the report states: 1.The PVEPD’s emergency response time averages 3 minutes, versus 5 to 7 minutes for the Sheriff’s. 2. In a disaster, the city manager and council are able to direct response through the city police chief. But under contract with the Sheriff, disaster decisions would be made by the Lomita Sheriff’s Captain. 3. Sheriff’s  presence at community events would be billed at an hourly rate, rather than absorbed by the local department’s budget. 4. Local police know local residents and local streets, which are unlit.

The April ballot date for the parcel tax was recommended by staff to avoid conflicting with a possible school bond measure and the June 2018 gubernatorial primary ballot, which is expected to have several statewide bond measures.

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