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Business tax change pushed off two years

Also, council votes to increase pay for reserve police officers.

July 19, 2012|By Joseph Serna

It will be at least another two years before Costa Mesa residents can vote on adjusting the city's business license tax.

The City Council this week failed to agree on a proposed change for the November ballot.

"I think trying to get this together for the November ballot is foolhardy," Mayor Eric Bever said Tuesday night.

He and Councilman Gary Monahan voiced opposition to the initiative, ending its chance to reach voters.

Because a tax measure requires two-thirds approval to go on a ballot, four of five council members needed to agree on a proposal.

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Bever suggested at a previous meeting that the low tax is an incentive for new businesses to come into the city. Monahan, who owns a bar, said businesses are taxed enough already.

City staff brought the issue to them earlier this month, with a final decision due by July 31 if it were to make it on the ballot.

"We waited till the ninth hour literally to put this on the November ballot," Councilwoman Wendy Leece said.

Unchanged since 1985, the tax generates a little more than $850,000 for the city. On the other end of the spectrum is Santa Ana, which rakes in more than $9 million a year. In Costa Mesa, the maximum tax is $200 for a business that generates more than $500,000 in gross receipts.

Though not all cities in Orange County have the tax, Costa Mesa's is the lowest among cities that do.

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Police reserve officer raises

In other action, the council approved a $6 hourly raise for police reserve officers.

The raise, which takes reserve officers pay from $27.09 to $33 an hour, would bring reserve officer pay to the same level as Costa Mesa Animal Control officers and also make them among the highest paid in the county, officials said.

Reserve officers undergo the same training as full-time officers but work fewer hours, don't receive benefits and are sometimes fresh out of a police academy; others are retired and interested in working part-time.

City officials said the pay raise could help recruit reserves.

"We're trying to add more reserve officers to add more to the street and cut down a little bit on overtime," Monahan said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said hiring reserve officers is the only way the city will increase Police Department staffing until contracts with the police union are renegotiated.

"The council will not hire new officers on the pension pay they have now," he said. "I will not hire somebody on a pension plan that is unsustainable."

The city has been in negotiations with the Police and Fire department associations over creating a second, lower pension tier for new hires, but no agreement has been reached.

The City Council also agreed to rescind a layoff notice for the city's lone emergency services equipment maintenance employee. That job will stay in-house.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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