The power to raise Santa Barbara City’s sales tax rate by 1 percent lies with registered voters.
Measure C is on the November 7 ballot. Supporters of increasing the sales tax rate by 1 percent to 8.75 percent say the money will be used to maintain essential programs and fix crumbling infrastructure.
“Trust me. As a businessman, I do not like the next tax,” said Randy Rowse, Santa Barbara City Councilmember.
Rowse also owns Paradise Cafe.
“From understanding what’s going on with our infrastructure and what the possibility for pulling this out of regular funding from what we have. It isn’t possible,” said Rowse.
City leaders say revenue generated from a 1 percent sales tax increase would help the city maintain its police and fire operations, 911 emergency medical response and repair local streets and old infrastructure. Leaders are also promising to update and upgrade the Santa Barbara Police Department and fire stations.
“If you’ve gone beyond where we’ve sealed and covered over streets, you’ll find out where we’re cosmetically repairing things, but not structurally. At some point, that just gets more expensive,” said Rowse.
Measure C requires that a citizens’ oversight committee review the annual performance report and report to city council and the public. City officials say all the funds generated by Measure C will be used locally.
However, not everyone is on board with Measure C because of the way it’s worded on the ballot.
“On any given Tuesday, a majority of the city council could opt to spend those tax dollars how they see fit,” said Joe Armendariz, executive director of Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association.
For example, the extra sales tax goes into the city’s general fund instead of setting it aside for something more specific like a “special tax” would. There also isn’t a “sunset clause”
“This tax will literally last forever. That’ll represent nearly a one billion dollar transfer from the private sector to the public sector over the next 25 to 30 years,” said Armendariz.
However, Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association doesn’t disagree that the city’s infrastructure needs repair.
The measure was put on the ballot through a 5-2 vote of the Santa Barbara City Council on June 27, 2017.
Click here for more information on the ballot.