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Santa Barbara voters likely to see 1/2 cent sales tax measure to pay for essential services on November ballot

Voters likley to decide on half cent sales tax hike in city of Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Santa Barbara City Council voted 6-1 to approve a staff recommendation to put an Essential Local Services Measure on the ballot.

The measure would increase the city's sales tax from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent.

Despite recent polling, showing likely voters supporting the measure in each district, Alejandra Gutierrez voted against it.

Gutierrez represents the First District where lower-income voters may be more affected when they buy taxable goods.

The police advocate for Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, known as CAUSE, would normally oppose a regressive tax, but voiced his support.

Frank Rodriguez said it is likely to help housing.

"We at the end of the day we want to se revenue going into our newly formed local housing trust fund because at the end of the day we want to see capital A affordable housing," said Rodriguez.

Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara's Executive Director Rod Fredericks agrees.

Rob Fredericks believes the money raised will improve housing affordability.

"it is foundational to a communities health it is also the keystone of the structure of a community if you don't have that keystone the arches fall apart," said Fredericks.

Santa Barbara Finance Director Keith DiMartini said while revenue is growing, expenditures are growing at a greater rate.

"It is just very expensive to run a full-service city," said Finance Director Keith DiMartini.

He said the projected deficit for fiscal year 2025 is approximately $7.1 million.

The sale tax, if passed, would provide 15.6 million annually that would be used locally.

Mayor Randy Rowse said Santa Barbara isn't the only city struggling with expenditures.

"I talk to mayors all over the state and all over the country, we are all in that same boat right now and everybody is seeing expenses like insurance, employees and pensions going up faster than the revenues are," said Rowse.

City staff told the council a majority of the sales taxes are paid by local tourism.

At the current rate of 8.75 the state takes six percent the county takes .75 percent and the city gets 2 percent.

City staff said California has a 9.25 cap for this area that would not allow the sales tax to be raised anymore under current state law.

Staff will come back to council for another vote in time to get the sales tax increase on the November ballot when turnout is expected to be high due to the Presidential Election.

The measure would need a simple majority to pass.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
local politics
Santa Barbara

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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