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H.B. Council caps property tax

A 4-2 vote puts the tax at a penny and a half on every $100 of assessed property value.

August 22, 2012|By Mona Shadia

The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday to cap the property tax the city collects to pay for public safety employees' retirement benefits.

The council voted 4-2 in favor of capping the tax at a penny and a half on every $100 of assessed property value. Councilman Devin Dwyer left the meeting before the vote.

The property tax brings the city about $4 million a year, which goes toward its general fund and pays for police and fire employees' pension costs.

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But the tax might no longer be collected if voters in November decide to repeal it.

Enough signatures were recently gathered with the help of Mayor Don Hansen to place Measure Z on the ballot, which would repeal the tax altogether.

Hansen said removing the tax will force employee groups to pay their full benefit contributions and prevent the council from raising the tax on property owners at any time.

According to the measure's impartial analysis, though, repealing the tax doesn't automatically mean the employees will pay their full share, as the city will remain bound by the employee contract agreement. But even if the employees pay their full share, it won't make up for the loss if the tax is repealed, which would leave the city with about $1.3 million in debt, according to the city clerk's office.

So Councilman Keith Bohr, who opposes the ballot measure, suggested a middle ground: capping the tax at its current rate to show that the council isn't interested in just raising it on property owners and that the city has truly been working toward getting all employees to pay their full share.

"Here's an opportunity, no matter what happens in November, to actually cap it," Bohr said.

But Hansen and Councilman Matthew Harper would not get on board.

Harper said it was premature to cap it before the voters decide.

Hansen said while he would cap the tax, he believes Bohr and those on the council opposed to repealing the tax are going to use this as an opportunity to make an argument against Measure Z in November, and he would not support that.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia

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