The 2020 general election that took place on Nov. 3 is not over because — at least in Los Angeles county the results do not have to be certified until Nov. 30, and there are still some races being counted.
But some issues have been decided, or at least appear mathematically incapable of the results being flipped.
Locally, Cindy Montañez and Mary Mendoza seem assured of having seats on the San Fernando City Council.
Montañez has maintained her solid grip on being the top vote-getter for one of the two four-year term seats, while Mendoza has a comfortable lead over David Bernal in the race for the two-year-term season.
The remaining four-year term seat had been too close to call. But as of Tuesday, Nov. 24, Celeste Rodriguez (3,233) had a 23-vote lead over Mayor Joel Fajardo (3,210).
Neither Fajardo nor Rodriguez has claimed victory. Another update is due on Friday, Nov. 27.
The new council as a body will be sworn in at its Dec. 7 meeting.
San Fernando voters, by a 56.4% to 43.6% margin, handily approved Measure SF to increase the City’s existing one half of one percent (1/2%) transactions (sales) and use tax indefinitely to a new rate of three quarters of one percent (3/4%).
The transactions-and-use tax is paid in addition to the existing countywide sales tax on sales of tangible goods, and is collected at the same time and in much the same manner as the general statewide sales tax. At an increased rate of 3/4%, the tax would add approximately 75¢ to a retail purchase of $100 or three-fourths of a penny to a purchase of $1.00.
Measure SF now raises the total sales tax rate in the City of San Fernando from 10% to 10.25%. In contrast, the sales tax rate in the city of Los Angeles is 9.5%.
The tax — then known as Measure A — was first approved in a special election held in June of 2013. Measure SF will increase the amount of tax revenue collected by the City.
Councilmember Sylvia Ballin said she was “shocked but grateful” at the margin of support the City measure received from voters.
“I didn’t think it would pass by such a large margin, maybe a small margin,” Ballin said. “That makes me feel great about our current City Council. The community seems pleased with the work we’re doing, and I feel it contributed to the confidence that we would do the right thing, and do as much as we can with these additional funds.”
City Manager Nick Kimball said because the tax is structured as a “general tax” within the meaning of Proposition 218, its proceeds could be used for any governmental or other public purpose including, but not limited to, street and sidewalk improvements; public infrastructure; local business reinvestment; public Wi-Fi; long-term debt reduction; personnel costs; further restoration of the City’s emergency “rainy day” fund and any other general municipal purpose.
“We can use it for any general fund purpose,” Kimball said. “Measure A, historically, had been used to pay down the City’s debt, replace police cars, replace outdated network infrastructure. We also used it for tree trimming and additional street paving.
“Unfortunately this year, Measure A was used mostly to cover the City’s operations because of COVID-19, which has really hurt the City’s tax revenues. But the council also took action to reduce the City’s expenditures primarily on personnel through retirements, and were able to reduce those expenditures by about $1 million. That will help us going into next year.”
He said pre-COVID, the revenue from Measure A generated was “close to $2.5 million a year,” and that Measure SF could generate an additional $1.1 million.
“Again, it’s a sales tax so [the amount] is dependent upon the economy and how we’re doing. But that’s what’s projected,” Kimball said.
He thinks the council — once in place — might consider putting the additional funding toward “core services” and “enhancing public safety.” Another potential project would be creating a public WiFi network.
“We have an energy efficient program we’re looking at to replace a lot of the streetlight lamp heads throughout the city. And you can create them so you can have WiFi nodes in them,” Kimball said.
He said City officials have heard from residents asking for improvements to the residential streets, and more economic development and revitalization of the City of San Fernando itself. “And, obviously, we just had an election; once it’s certified we need to understand what any new council members’ priorities are.”
He said San Fernando would start receiving the revenue increase in June of 2021, at the start of the next fiscal year.
Ballin sounded energized about the possibilities for the increase in revenue.
“Measure SF will take San Fernando to the next level and provide the additional revenues to make investments into the community, rather than just keeping the lights on,” the council member said.