NEWS: BizFed Weighs in on Proposed LA County 1/4 cent sales tax for Homeless Services

Posted December 6th, 2016

Dear Chairman Ridley-Thomas,

On behalf of the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) – representing more than 160 top business groups with 325,000 employers and 3 million employees across our region – we are writing to urge you to include two important provisions in the proposed ¼ cent sales tax to fund homeless services. BizFed recognizes the pressing needs of providing services to the homeless, which is why we supported Measure HHH in the 2016 General Election.
The following areas have to be addressed for the taxpayers of Los Angeles County and to the BizFed membership for its consideration of support of this measure.

1) Maintenance of current efforts with existing general funding to enable new sales tax money to go to NEW services.
When there is a new revenue source to combat problems in municipal budgets, what usually occurs is that the general funds that were programmed to that purpose gets re-programmed to other priorities.

BizFed would like LA County to be transparent and provide a listing of all the homeless programs that the County is currently funding and will continue to fund without these sales tax dollars and that any revenue generated from this new tax is approved only go towards new services. We would like to see a model much like the successful Measure M where a maximum percentage off the top of the new gross sales tax revenue will be used for the administrative purposes. For purposes of this conversation we believe a range of 3-5% would suffice.

2) Community Oversight and Accountability
As currently proposed in the ordinance, the Oversight Committee should be expanded to 10 (each Supervisor appoints two members; and expanded to have at minimum of one member from the building, construction, or land planning community to aid in providing more cost-effective means to provide the affordable housing that meets codes and general plans. For example, a member from this community could look at a proposed set of plans for an affordable housing project and show ways to reduce the cost per square foot of the housing while maintaining a high quality of design and building craftsmanship. This could aid in stretching these new sales tax dollars to produce more affordable housing that combats homelessness and or use the savings to improve and add services provided for the homeless.

BizFed would like to see a balanced and effective Oversight Committee. BizFed would like to see the role of the Oversight Committee be strengthened by making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on the setting of expenditure priorities, reviewing expenditure plans, or perhaps over allocation of the dollars, in advance of program implementation rather than an “after-the-fact” monitoring. The Committee is pro-active in the efforts to maximize the effectiveness of these sales tax dollars should the voters support them.

The Committee should have access to an inventory of existing County properties where such housing could be located without land costs or as in “in-kind” contribution to the cost of the project, further improving the effectiveness for every dollar spend to combat this most pressing needed in LA County.

BizFed applauds your efforts (LA County Homeless Initiative, adopted 2/9/2016) on this issue. The Board and membership of BizFed looks forward to continuing the dialogue on this Measure as it moves toward the March 7, 2016 ballot.