PAGE 1 July 31, 2014 SB COUNCIL TO LET VOTERS DECIDE ON TAX CUT by Ruth Osborn staff writer The Seal Beach City Council agreed Monday to let the voters decide whether to decrease a 21-year-old utility tax from 11 to 10 percent at the N ov. 4 General Municipal Election.
The measure would also update the ordinance so the Utility Users Tax (UUT) is equally levied among all forms of telecommunications.
Currently, the city’s municipal code requires that UUT be reviewed annually for rescission if it is no longer needed. Year after year, the council has approved the UUT as a necessary means to pay for the city’s capital improvements program and maintain services at current levels. The tax is now imposed on electric, gas and telephone utilities, but not water—usually the most expensive utility people pay—as in most other OC cities.
Passage of the ordinance would reduce most UUT bills and levy the tax on post-1990s forms of telecommunications services, such as cell phones and pagers.
The tax would not be levied on cable or Internet service.
The UUT is a critical funding source, according to Seal Beach City Treasurer Victoria Beatley. Most people would see a decrease in their monthly bills, she told the council Monday.
The city’s revenue stream is expected to decrease by about $300,000 if voters approve the measure Nov. 4.
The measure will include a provision to exempt income-qualified seniors 65 years and older.
The senior exemption has been part of the ordinance since the tax was first levied in 1993.
Currently seniors who have a maximum annual household income of $44,096 or less may apply for the exemption. Forms are available at Seal Beach City Hall, 211 Eighth St., Seal Beach, 90740.
People may also apply in person. Bring copies of utility bills, a federal income tax form as proof of income, a driver’s license as proof of age and copies of all utility bills including cell phone bills.
The ballot measure includes a provision to adjust exemption requirements based on HUD Section 8 income limits.
The UUT senior exemption is now using 2009 income guidelines, with no way to adjust thresholds upward. For example, the city’s current cut-off is $44,096; the 2014 HUD limit is $45,650.
The UUT is the second largest revenue source in the city, funneling more than $5 million into the general fund.
The tax pays for street maintenance, sewers and storm drains, and beaches and pier projects, police and emergency services, senior transit and more.
The council first imposed a UUT of 6 percent in 1993 to offset a $1.6 million budget deficit triggered when the state of California appropriated revenues historically earmarked for local jurisdictions. Only $34,000 remained in the general fund reserve at that time.
The tax generated $1.6 million in locally controlled revenue that first year.
In 1999, the council hiked the tax to the current 11 percent, with the proviso that it undergo an annual review.
Over the years, there has been sporadic protests of the tax, but the council majority has kept it intact as a crucial means cover the costs of services and capital repairs.
KINGSTON TRIO PACKS HOUSE
by Ruth Osborn
The Kingston Trio packed the Amphitheater Thursday night as hundreds of LWers in tank tops and tropical shirts strolled in to enjoy timeless crowd favorites, still gold after 50 years.
The Trio’s simple acoustic melody, tight harmony and storytelling songs are the quintessential bedrock of folk music.
The show took off with Bill Zorn’s rousing rendition of “Zombie Jamboree” and a plaintive version of “Early Morning Rain,” a 1964 Gordon Lightfoot song that perfectly suited the balmy summer night.
Bill Zorn is at the center of the group. He sang with The Kingston Trio in the 1970s and was with The New Christy Minstrels for a time.
Tenor Rick Dougherty, who took over for Glenn Yarbrough in The Limelighters, is an accomplished vocalist and the Trio’s first new face in 20-some years.
Banjo strummer George Grove is in his 39th year with the trio.
Their voices soared with their instruments as they sang almost all the fan favorites, including “MTA,” “Scotch and Soda,” “Jenny Glenn” and “Tom Dooley.”
A food truck was available for picnickers. Koeffel’s will have a truck at all future the Amphitheater shows for al fresco dining.
Tonight, the Golden Rain Foundation will present Music in the Miller Mood featuring the Tex Beneke Orchestra and the Modernaires at 8 p.m. on the Amphitheater stage.
For more information on the show, see page 11.
SB BRIDGE IS NOW OPEN IN BOTH DIRECTIONS
Drivers traveling through Seal Beach have an easier commute now that the Seal Beach Boulevard Bridge is reopened in both directions after lengthy closures to widen the bridge over the I-405.
Construction crews have been reconstructing the eastern half of the bridge since September 2013. The western half, completed last fall, is the portion drivers used until Saturday, when all lanes opened for traffic.
The bridge now has seven lanes, four northbound and three southbound, and a 9-foot-wide bicycle lane in each direction.
Crews finished lane striping and electrical work last weekend.
Crews are reconstructing portions of the bridge’s 405 on-ramps and off-ramps.
The northbound I-405 on-ramp at Seal Beach Boulevard is closed for about two months.
To access the northbound 405 from Seal Beach Boulevard (north of I-405), proceed north to Katella Avenue, turn left on Katella and take the northbound I-605 on-ramp or continue on Katella Avenue and turn left on Studebaker Road to access the northbound I-405 on-ramp
From Seal Beach Boulevard (south of I-405), head south and turn right on Westminster Avenue, turn right on Studebaker Road to access the westbound SR-22/7th Street on-ramp or continue north on Studebaker Road to access the northbound I-405 on-ramp.
The construction work is part of the $277 million West County Connectors project to improve traffic flow by connecting carpool lanes on the I-405, I-605 and SR-22. In addition, the project adds six miles of carpool lane on I-405 between SR-22 and I-605.
The entire project is expected to be completed and open to drivers by the end of this year.
ROLLING THUNDER CLUB TO SERVICE CARTS, SCOOTERS
The Rolling Thunder Club will host a Air, Water and Flag Day Saturday, Aug. 2, in the Clubhouse 2 parking lot from 9 a.m.-noon. Bring golf carts and scooters for battery and tire checks and get safety flags installed on scooters.