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Three weeks ago, it was announced that a $1.8 million grant from FEMA would allow Downey to hire a dozen firefighters and put back into service a fire engine that had been disabled last summer to save money.
Unclear was how the city intended to pay for the firefighters after the grant money is exhausted in about two years.
Now we have our answer.
Downey officials are considering asking residents to raise the city’s Utility Users’ Tax (UUT) for electricity, gas and telephone. The added revenue would be used to pay for future police and fire services, officials said.
If approved by the city council, Downey residents would vote on the tax hike Nov. 5. It’s not clear how much higher city officials want to raise the UUT, how much it would cost the average homeowner or how long the increase would remain in effect.
Bellflower residents passed a similar ballot measure last November, raising their UUT by 2 percent for five years. That measure included exemptions for low-income seniors and created a citizens oversight board to ensure the funds were used for their intended purposes.
Council members on Tuesday will consider hiring a consultant to gauge the ballot measure’s chances in Downey. The consultant is charging $156,850 and would conduct polling, host town hall meetings and send out mailers to residents, among other duties.
Downey closed a $11.5 million budget deficit last year through layoffs and cuts to services, including fire and police.
“Despite these financial challenges, the city based on its tradition of providing top notch police and fire services to its citizens desires to explore alternatives so that it can preserve and continue to improve and enhance the level of service provided by its police and fire departments,” city manager Gilbert Livas wrote in a report to council members.