The Central City Association, a downtown business group, is opposing a parcel tax for parks that Los Angeles County supervisors are poised this week to place on the November ballot.

The levy would replace two smaller parcel taxes that are set to expire in the next couple of years; proceeds would go to fund the creation of more park space in the notoriously park-poor county. Because it would generate more revenue (roughly $95 million a year compared with $80 million for the current parcel taxes), almost all property owners would pay more.

But that’s not the main reason the business group is urging its members to contact the supervisors to reject the proposal. The measure changes the formula for calculating the parcel tax in a way that puts a bigger impact on major property owners. Current parcel taxes assess a flat rate of $34 a parcel. But this measure would base the tax on the amount of developed square footage; the rate settled upon is 1.5 cents a square foot. So the owner of the 1.43 million-square-foot U.S. Bank Tower downtown would pay $21,485 instead of the current $34 flat rate.

Proponents say this method would keep the tax cost down for single-family homeowners – thus improving its chances of passage – while still raising substantially more money. They also point out that the current flat parcel tax rate is regressive: the owner of a 1,000-square foot bungalow pays the same $34 as Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd., the Singapore owner of the U.S. Bank building.

But the Central City Association sees it differently; the group wants the existing flat rate taxes extended.

“Creating a new parcel tax based on a per-square-foot calculation will burden commercial property owners in particular,” the group’s legislative alert says.

More New Laws

A raft of new laws impacting local businesses went into effect July 1.

The big headline grabber, of course, was the minimum-wage increases in the cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and unincorporated Los Angeles County. In all four jurisdictions, the wage has jumped from the statewide minimum wage of $10 an hour to $10.50 for employers with 26 or more employees. In Los Angeles, employers must also provide six days of paid sick leave, double the statewide requirement of three days.

But several other laws passed last year have just now kicked in as well. Among them:

  • AB 219: For construction contractors and others on public-sector projects that need to use ready-mix concrete trucks, prevailing wages must be paid to drivers of those trucks. The law applies to public works contracts awarded on or after July 1. It’s the first time prevailing wage laws have been extended to materials suppliers.
  • SB 501: Starting July 1, many employees subject to wage garnishment from legal judgments are seeing the amount of garnishments reduced. For many workers, the new cap is 25 percent of disposable earnings. Child support payments and government debt (back taxes and penalties, etc.) would still be subject to existing garnishment levels.
  • AB 1513: Requires employers who pay workers on a piecework basis to provide pay for rest and recovery periods as well as actual production time. Many garment employers had only paid workers for production time, but that practice was ruled illegal in two recent court decisions and employers were ordered to provide back pay for the difference. July 1 was the deadline for employers to notify the state’s Department of Industrial Relations of any back pay requirements; that back pay must be provided to workers by Dec. 15.

Police Permit Fees Rise

L.A. businesses in scores of different industries are subject to police permit fees, and those fees are set to rise in almost all cases.

The Los Angeles Police Commission permits and regulates everything from dance halls to auto junkyards – essentially any business where the safety of patrons and employees might be an issue. Each year, the commission adjusts the fees to cover the cost of issuing permits and going after scofflaw businesses that don’t have them.

Starting Nov. 1, fees will be going up for almost all businesses that require police permits, according to a June 17 memo from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana. One of the biggest increases: firearms dealers, who will see their initial permit fee jump to $854 from $752; their annual permit renewal will jump to $231 from $173.

The higher fees are expected to generate $15.8 million in revenue, up 3 percent from last year.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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