Santa Barbara City Council Votes to Place Half-Cent Sales Tax Measure on the November Ballot

On June 11, 2024, the City of Santa Barbara Council voted unanimously to place the Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure on the November 5, 2024, ballot.

If approved by Santa Barbara voters, the measure will generate an estimated $15.6 million annually to support the City’s General Fund, which pays for local services, including public safety, maintenance, libraries, affordable housing, and more.

The Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure was placed on the ballot after a series of more than 20 community meetings, including six public town halls, between October 2023 and May 2024. At these meetings, staff discussed the status of the City’s services, budget, and the potential for new revenue to support them.

A community survey found that a majority of respondents rated the following areas as high priority: maintaining 911 emergency fire, paramedic, and police response; improving housing affordability; preventing thefts and property crime; addressing homelessness; and keeping public areas safe and clean.

These services and others are supported by the City’s General Fund. Current forecasts suggest that the General Fund could see deficits of as much as 5–7% ($11M-$15M) within the next three years, despite several years of budget reductions across City departments.

During the June 4th council meeting, Finance Director Keith DeMartini stated, “Our charge was set out to develop a list of all the ways we could generate additional revenue as an organization. We really left no stone unturned.” He later added, “Sales Tax would generate the most revenue annually,” and “it’s also really important to note that nearly half of all the sales tax dollars that are generated do come from tourists.”

The Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure ballot question reads: “Shall the measure maintaining 9-1-1 emergency/fire/paramedic/police response, keeping neighborhood fire stations open; improving housing affordability; addressing homelessness; keeping public areas/parks safe, clean; maintaining library services, stormwater protection;  improving natural disaster preparedness; retaining local businesses/jobs, and for general government use; by establishing a ½¢ sales tax providing approximately $15,600,000 annually until ended by voters; requiring audits, public spending disclosure, all funds used locally, be adopted?”

The measure would add a ½ cent tax to applicable purchases in Santa Barbara and includes accountability provisions, including public disclosure of all spending, and annual independent financial audits. The proposed tax increase would be collected in the same manner as the existing City sales and use tax and would be subject to all the same tax exemptions, such as services, rent, groceries, prescription medicine, utilities, diapers, and feminine hygiene products. For a complete list of all the sales and use tax exemptions, please visit the California Tax Service Center.

Legally, funds generated by the Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure cannot be taken by the State government or transferred to any other agency. The measure requires a majority approval of Santa Barbara City voters this November 2024.

More information about the Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure can be found at SantaBarbaraCA.gov/Nov2024Ballot.

What do you think?

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19 Comments

  1. “If approved …”; which is the whole article. What is going to happen when this does NOT pass? (my vote is/will be a NO)
    Lets just put it on the Tourist? “it’s also really important to note that nearly half of all the sales tax dollars that are generated do come from tourists.” What a wonderful fact, thanks for that really important info…

    • It seems unlikely that nearly half of all the sales tax revenue comes from tourists when all online purchases (of non-exempt, eg. food items) are to locals and taxed. And how many were surveyed?
      And if it does not pass then add a negative to the following items: “maintaining 9-1-1 emergency/fire/paramedic/police response, keeping neighborhood fire stations open; improving housing affordability; addressing homelessness; keeping public areas/parks safe, clean; maintaining library services, stormwater protection; improving natural disaster preparedness; retaining local businesses/jobs, and for general government use;…” ….So, it will be as now so that 911 etc. will not be maintained, neighborhood fire stations will be closed; public areas/parks will not be safe and clean; library services will not be maintained — that’s a joke with the library director and her chief on assitant on PAID LEAVE with no information given to the public – and there won’t be stormwater protection, and local businesses won’t be retained – see State Street! but as for “general government use”??? This is really insulting since back in 2017, Measure C ballot said pretty much the same thing and in the 7 years since apparently has not been successful … except for council handouts for various wishlists.

    • When the Santa Barbara City Council stops wasting our tax money on consultants and frivolous projects, then and only then will I even consider a tax hike and only after the council justifies every cent that it spends. MY WIFE AND I SHALL VOTE NO!

  2. Remember when the ballot language was neutral, and ballot arguments were separate? I’m not taking a stand on whether the increase should be approved, but this ballot language IS the ballot argument! It should read something like “Shall a sales tax increase of 1/2 cent, to 9.25% be adopted?” The reasons for and against are presented in the ballot arguments. Read the approved wording below. Can you even determine what it is you are voting on? It’s deceptive, and it may cost them the election.

    “Shall the measure maintaining 9-1-1 emergency/fire/paramedic/police response, keeping neighborhood fire stations open; improving housing affordability; addressing homelessness; keeping public areas/parks safe, clean; maintaining library services, stormwater protection; improving natural disaster preparedness; retaining local businesses/jobs, and for general government use; by establishing a ½¢ sales tax providing approximately $15,600,000 annually until ended by voters; requiring audits, public spending disclosure, all funds used locally, be adopted?”

    Read that without taking a breath!

  3. bozo show at its best- talking about bozos lets hear some more about our paid officals not just one official that cost us millions . not knowing what they were doing and trying to create a monopoly and taking the ambulance service away from the subcontractor illegally and then hopping the gun and buying millions of dollars worth of ambulances before it was done and said with our money , they should be fired all that incompently participated

  4. If approved, this tax increase would bring the city sales tax to 9.25%. Apparently the 1% Measure C Sales Tax increase in 2017 wasn’t enough to enable the city staff to balance the budget for 2025 and going forward.

    In all of the discussions about the city’s budget shortfall there has been almost no discussion of cutting the expense side of the equation (as is the first option in the private sector). A review of all of the staff reports and ordinance language reveals nothing about cutting expenses. Following the lead of our spend-and-tax federal and state governments, staff has only proposed, and the Council approved, ways to raise more revenue. There does not appear to have been any discussions as to what, or if, other options could have been considered and why they were discarded.

    Last month, during the Council’s Finance Committee budget discussions, it was pointed out, that one of the key factors driving the budget shortfall is the steady and significant increase in salary and pension costs. In 2023, the city spent $75.6 million in salaries and $46 million in benefits. One year later salaries were up to $86 million and benefits up to $55.7 million. That is a 14% and 21% increase respectively in one year! But no explanation has been given as to why or how this could or should be controlled going forward.

    Measured against other CA communities, Santa Barbara is demonstrably over-staffed. And comparing public sector to private sector management and executive salaries and benefits (especially retirement plans) generally shows that the public sector comes out significantly ahead. So right-sized staffing and bringing top-level salaries more in line with the private sector are definitely areas to focus on rather than to use the simple expediency of resorting to another regressive sales tax increase.

    It would be nice if the City Council and the city staff dealt with the budget and funding challenges more as we in the private sector must rather than simply continuing to squeeze the tax payers.

    • Yep. And they will just keep on trying to squeeze us taxpayers until we wipe the slate clean around here and start voting differently- for fiscally-responsible representatives. That hasn’t happened for a long while now. It’s a reflection of the average SB voter.

  5. I think the City has been irresponsible in spending money e.g. hundreds of thousands spent on “studying” State St with no useable product to show, thousands will be spent “re-doing” the State St/101 underpass, and now the City wants the taxpayers who shop here to pay more? NO

  6. State has a huge deficit, city has a huge deficit, SBCC wants a 350 million dollar bond on the ballet, just went through – what 15 % inflation.
    Are you nuts?
    No, No, No
    Learn to live with in your means.
    How about that 13 million dollar sidewalk project?🤷🏽‍♂️

  7. JIMBO – you hate money going to the homeless, OK fine. So, how do you propose we deal with the homeless problem? Just leave them alone with no help or basic services at all? Will that make them disappear? Abra cadabra! Someone believes in magic LOL

Thursday Morning, June 13, Traffic Issues

Firefighters at Ross on Thursday?