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City Officials Say Measure P Guarantees $18 million Transfer to General Fund Without Increasing Taxes, Fees

Published on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 | 10:51 am

A city official told Pasadena Now that the city could lose $18 million annually and would not be able to provide some services if an annual transfer from the city’s utility to the general fund does not continue. 

Measure P allows voters to decide whether to maintain the longstanding utility transfer to the general fund. The elimination of these funds would impact 911 response, first responders, public health programs for the community, senior services, homelessness, housing programs, and street repair.

It does not increase fees, raise or create a new tax. 

“Measure P is about protecting the longstanding utility transfer to the general fund that serves Pasadena residents and businesses,” said Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derdeian. “Since 1934, the Pasadena Charter calling for the annual transfer has previously gone to and passed by a majority of voters a combined seven times.” 

A lawsuit has been filed alleging that the Pasadena Water and Power Department has overcharged customers to guarantee there is money available to transfer to the general fund, Vincent Slavens, a plaintiff’s attorney for the San Diego law firm of Benink & Slavens, told Pasadena Now.

Slavens said the transfer money is “baked into the cake” of the rates — but shouldn’t be, because it exceeds the amount necessary to provide the service. That amounts to a tax, which needs voter approval, he said. 

Pasadena Water and Power’s (PWP) started in 1906 when the Municipal Light and Power Department was established.  Residents passed a $125,000 bond to construct a locally controlled power plant that would electrify streetlights for less than what Edison charged the city. 

Soon thereafter, residents supported another bond measure for more capacity at the power plant, and the department began its first commercial electric service in 1908. Today, the utility provides services to 65,000 residences and businesses.

For over 100 years, Pasadena has been generating local revenue meant to stay local, instead of going to big electric company stockholders. Instead, residents investing in Pasadena Water & Power benefit from a consistent source of revenue for the city’s infrastructure and essential services like fire protection, paramedics, 911 emergency response, and programs for the public health and safety of the community; even amid a medical emergency, natural disaster or federal and state budget cuts. 

“The City Charter allowing the transfer of available funds from the utility has been approved by voters going back to 1934 a combined total of seven times,” Derderian said. “Measure P simply asks the voters to once again approve the transfer and maintain essential city services that benefit the residents and businesses of Pasadena.”

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