Santa Maria voters decided a quarter-percent sales tax is needed to fund public safety and other city services, and Measure U passed Tuesday night with 63.9 percent support.
The Santa Maria City Council declared a fiscal emergency in January and placed Measure U on the June 5 ballot. It only required a simple majority and will offset budget cuts to fund neighborhood police and firefighters, at-risk youth programs, gang/drug suppression and enforcement teams, improving 9-1-1 emergency medical response times, preventing floods through levee repair and other city services, according to the ballot language.
It expires in nine years and will have an oversight committee and annual audits.
Although the city just built two new fire stations with federal grant money, it doesn’t have the money to staff Fire Station No. 5. According to the Santa Maria Times, the fire department is also applying for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants from the Homeland Security Department to try to get the $1.7 million needed to hire nine firefighters to staff the station, scheduled to be completed this summer.