I Heart SCV
Your Tax Dollars at Work & Play
April, 2016 - Issue #138
The loveliness of April has been forever sullied by what happens on April 15. This year is especially bad. For in addition to the non-stop H&R Block commercials, TurboTax pop-ups and insipid news stories about last-minute filers waiting in line at the post office, it's election season. Everyone is giving their tax plans and telling us what they'll do with our tax dollars. I am powerless to resist the sheer inertia of it all, so let's explore the local angle on taxes. If you're the sort who gets riled up about this kind of thing, grab a drink and put on some soothing music before proceeding further.

I Voted Against my Raise!
Taxpayers pay the salaries of council members, but they vote on the raises. This makes council compensation a touchy subject. Recall that a few months ago, the council voted 3-2 against a 10-percent raise for 2017-2018. Shortly thereafter, the matter was revisited, and Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta changed his vote so that a raise will start next year.

Councilman TimBen Boydston pointed out that the raise considerably exceeded usual private sector raises and increases in social security. He suggested they instead take a 10-percent pay cut and donate the savings to seniors. This got Acosta pretty upset. He said they get paid very little for their hard work and he mentioned that his elderly mom's car was in the shop, an example of why he could use the raise. He challenged Boydston to voluntarily take a pay cut if reelected. Acosta could have a point. The only two people who voted against the raise, Mayor Bob Kellar and Councilman Boydston, are often at odds. The only thing they have in common is running for reelection this year. I imagine they'll both be mentioning their vote against council pay raises.

Gentrification, Courtesy City Hall
Does Old Town Newhall look like $100 million? It should be over half way there. SCVTV's Leon Worden estimated that some $50M have gone into sprucing up the area and the City Council recently moved forward on adding another $20 million. Most of that will go to a new parking structure (still in the planning stages), but it also includes a large subsidy to Laemmle Theaters. Laemmle is a theater chain that shows more independent and arthouse films than you'd expect to find at the local Edwards. They entered negotiations with the City last year, and the council just voted 3-1 to give them about $3 million worth of subsidies. I usually bring wine as a housewarming gift, but millions of dollars seems an equally friendly welcome.

It is estimated that the theater and associated redevelopment will boost tax revenue from Newhall by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Still, the process of gentrification is rife with social and economic tensions. Rents are already rising, which makes it difficult for some to stay in the area. But perhaps new jobs will make up for this: All that popcorn doesn't serve itself!

Taxes, Charities, Arts
Santa Clarita gives out grants to local community services and arts groups every year. The usual course of action is small grants for many groups. This year, a total of $155,755 was distributed among 28 organizations. The Canyon Theatre Guild got $7,500 for a production of "Broadway Musical." The Santa Clarita Artists Association got the same amount in support of a community art gallery. $5,000 went to the American Diabetes Association for a program called "Living well with diabetes." Single Mothers Outreach, Carousel Ranch, Boys and Girls Club of SCV and other familiar community groups were also supported. Even the Gibbon Conservation Center got a grant to make a handicap-accessible walkway. And who doesn't love gibbons?

A point made by Council Member Marsha McLean was that rejected proposals might have come from deserving groups that simply suffered from a poor or incomplete application. Groups can get help when preparing these grant applications, she said, so that such costly mistakes can be avoided. It's something to keep in mind if you work for one of the deserving groups that makes us heart how the SCV spends your tax dollars.
This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor.
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