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California Council Increases Property Tax to Support Paramedic Services

Homeowners in this city will soon see their annual property taxes go up by about $30.

The City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a property tax increase of 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation to raise money for the city's paramedic services.

The median selling price for homes sold recently in Garden Grove's five ZIP codes averaged $314,900, according to the latest figures released by DataQuick Information Systems. New sales ranged from $225,000 to $366,000.

For the average homeowner, the increase was calculated at about $30, said Finance Director Kingsley Okereke.

The new tax will generate about $1 million, said Garden Grove Fire Chief Dave Bertka.

The city's paramedic program costs approximately $7 million. Most of the cost, $6 million, is paid by a tax of 6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation that voters approved in 1974 to pay for emergency paramedic services, Bertka said. The city has been making up the difference from the general fund but, faced with a deficit, can no longer afford to subsidize the program, Bertka told the council.

The 1974 ballot measure specifies the property tax would not exceed 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to Bertka. From 1975 to 1984, the tax was set at 10 cents per $100, and from 1985 to 2010, the tax was set at 2.5 cents. In March 2010, the council increased the tax to 6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, Bertka wrote in a report to the council.

Resident Charles Mitchell told the council he was concerned whether the tax increase was a legitimate expense for paramedics or an "end run to raise taxes without having to go through other procedures."

He asked city officials for an explanation. They said the additional money would wholly support the paramedic program.

Furlough day and pension change

In other matters, the council voted to amend contracts with two unions that will translate to one furlough day a month for employees in the next two fiscal years and the withdrawal of a previously agreed upon 2 percent wage increase scheduled for this summer. The savings will add up to approximately $1 million.

The mandatory eight-hour furlough creates an additional monthly Friday closure for City Hall and the Municipal Service Center - or three Friday closures per month. The first additional Friday closure will be on May 18. A schedule of Friday closure dates for the remainder of 2012 will be available on the city's website.

Members under the Garden Grove Employees Association and the Orange County Employees Association also will see a new formula that will give newer employees a lower pension benefit. In exchange, the unions requested a no-layoff clause for both years and, if the city's financial situation improves, a return in 2014 of wages lost due to the furloughs, according to a staff report.

Earlier this year, 92 non-union manager-level employees also took a one-day-a-month-off furlough and a retraction of a 2 percent increase anticipated this summer.

The city is facing a $6 million budget deficit, in part due to the losses suffered following the state's shutdown of redevelopment agencies.

Other measures Garden Grove officials are pursuing to avoid layoffs include offering early retirements to longtime employees and buyouts to younger employees, City Manager Matthew Fertal said following the meeting.

 



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