Friday, February 12 , 2016, 1:46 pm | Fair 72º

Santa Barbara to Explore Sales Tax Hike at March Budget Workshop

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Looking for ways to generate more revenue, the Santa Barbara City Council will begin considering options next month, including an increase in the city’s 8 percent sales tax rate.

During a meeting to prepare for the upcoming budget deliberations, council and staff recently discussed the city’s long-term infrastructure needs, like renovating Parks & Recreation Department facilities and building a new police station, said Nina Johnson, assistant to City Administrator Jim Armstrong.

Council members haven’t given any direction yet, but want more information about options for increasing revenues, Johnson said.

The presentation to council members outlined municipal finances in some detail but the message was simple: revenues are getting better, but the city’s needs are growing every year.

In 2012, Santa Barbara paid out $76.349 million in salaries, retirement contributions, health insurance and other benefits for the city’s 1,000 or so regular employees and few hundred hourly employees, Johnson said. Over the next few years, the city expects salary increases for every employee group as well as more expensive health insurance costs.

According to officials, medical insurance premiums are expected to jump 10 percent per year, with dental expenses increasing 5 percent and vision 2 percent.

City staff suggested that the council plan a workshop for public input on new revenue measures and consider placing a revenue measure on the November ballot. Johnson said a workshop has been scheduled for 9 a.m. March 13.

A 2008 Infrastructure Financing Task Force report recommended that the city consider a half-cent sales tax increase, general obligation bonds and dedicating 10 percent of city revenues to infrastructure investment by 2012, which will likely come up at the next meeting.

The city’s general fund has been coming in slightly under budget for the past few years, but the capital improvement program is underfunded.

Johnson said staff has identified $642 million in capital projects but there is only $201 million in funding available for undertakings like a replacement police station, the rebuilding of Fire Station No. 7 on Stanwood Drive, a City Hall elevator and the renovation of the Cabrillo Bathhouse & Gym. The streets capital program alone needs $216 million, according to staff.

At Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, council members will discuss rate increases for water and wastewater customers. The meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. in the David Gebhard Public Meeting Room at 630 Garden St. before the regular council meeting begins at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 02.25.13 @ 10:10 AM

No!  Have our city leaders learned nothing over the past 4 years?  No to raising sales tax!

» on 02.25.13 @ 11:25 AM

Hey look! We all get free medical because you are FORCED to pay higher sales taxes! YEY! Hey look! We all get pay raises. You don’t! Haha! Hey look! We have an out of control pension obligation that keeps getting bigger! But we’re not like you… We’re special. You? You’re just an average Joe who lives here and WILL pay for our lifestyle.

» on 02.25.13 @ 12:04 PM

How about tying all government salaries to those of the non government salaries.  They should all go up and down in lockstep.  To simply increase taxes whenever their union bosses want is theft.

» on 02.25.13 @ 12:28 PM

Very telling that when the staff reports that the budget is getting tight they recommend more taxes not cutting back on expenses.

The personnel costs shown here average almost $130,000 PER EACH employee. Wow!

» on 02.25.13 @ 01:43 PM

Democrats we cant handle any more tax increases—STOP!!!

Live within your means like the rest of us with REAL jobs.

Sub contract all services to the private sector NOW!!

Cut 10% accross the board in each department, and cut staff size and salaries to be in line withe the privare sector. This must include your two months paid vacation a year, 17 paid holidays, two weeks sick pay, free cars, Gas, credit cards per diem..Ritire at 50 the list just goes on and on!!

BK coming soon!!

» on 02.25.13 @ 02:04 PM


It’s a great idea if the city would contract out the entire task without keeping in-house staff alongside the contractors. The problem with the way the city contracts out projects is that they also keep the city staff who then “supervise” the sub-contractors’ activities. So there is no reduction in staff and we effectively are paying double.

» on 02.25.13 @ 02:14 PM

I agree with Overtaxed with all the cuts. I would add that ALL the upper-management take a 40% pay cut minumun. Also Council members take NO PAY for their job. With these actions you might start to convince the citizens of SB that you mean busness of trying to get the budget under control.

As far as Capital Project spending, No new or replacement buildings unless paid for in cash, not by loan, special tax. Live with in our means as the citizen has to do.

» on 02.25.13 @ 02:36 PM

Most of these comments reflect the justifiable anger that SB citizens should have over the way city government conducts affairs involving its own enrichment. City employees, as well as most public sector employees, cannot be exempt from responsible budgeting—especially at a time when many in the private sector must practice increasing frugality. Contact city council members and protest this sales tax proposal, and let them know your vote will not go to any member who supports this tax increase. Time to cut a fat hog.

» on 02.25.13 @ 03:11 PM

Not ONE CENT MORE in taxes until the City’s personnel and pension costs are brought under control.

» on 02.25.13 @ 03:18 PM

The 49% on welfare food stamps section 8 college kids and the lazy 99ers will vote for higher taxes. Most of these losers don’t work, or have skin in the game.>>Obama’s base!!

Give me my free hand out!!

Boston tax party coming.

» on 02.25.13 @ 06:05 PM

Really the issue is we need to elect new leadership.  Most of the city council and the board of supervisors need to be replaced!

» on 02.25.13 @ 08:30 PM

To be honest, Santa Barbara voters only have themselves to blame for the current tax and spend high-rollers on the City Council. The one incumbent from a few years ago, who actually was fiscally responsible and routinely opposed additional taxes and fees, was voted out and replaced with Cathy Murillo. Is there really anything else to say about this subject?

» on 02.25.13 @ 08:37 PM

Any council member who supports raising the sales tax will lose my vote come re-election time.

» on 02.25.13 @ 09:59 PM

So the city wants to sock it to the taxpayers to pay for salaries and benefits. How about no! If people want better salaries how about they go look for a better job in the private sector.

» on 02.25.13 @ 10:58 PM

Forgot to mention that the one incumbent who didn’t get re-elected was Michael Self.

» on 02.26.13 @ 03:03 AM

“Cut 10% accross the board in each department, and cut staff size and salaries to be in line withe the privare sector.”

“How about tying all government salaries to those of the non government salaries.”

You gotta love this race to the bottom mentality.  None of these people would dare try to put any pressure on the private sector to pay more to be in line the public sector.  Do you even know what the average worker in similar positions makes in the private sector in this town?  Since we are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, shouldn’t we want to be at least competitive enough with the successful private companies in this town to hire the most talented workers that we can to support it? 

A major source of revenue for the private sector in this town comes from our infrastructure, good infrastructure requires tax money.  Recent research shows that every $1 Of Infrastructure Spending Boosts The Economy By $2.  During a down economy, we SHOULD be investing in infrastructure.

Pushing back against infrastructure spending, or bashing public workers because you feel they make too much is counter productive.  For arguments sake if there are public employees in SB that make more than some similar private sector employees, that just puts more pressure on the private sector to pay their employees more if they want to keep and/or attract top talent, and not give the top of the company all the profits.  That’s not a bad thing! Income equality has gotten totally out of control in the past 10-20 years, and we have weakened unions, and the race to the bottom mentality to thank for it.  Many of our ancestors gave up so much for fair labor practices back 50-75 years ago, putting pressure on the private sector to give better pay and benefits to future generations of workers, now all we want to do is bash those who make more than we do, or have better benefits than we do, and try to undo all the progress that they made.  You’re playing right into the private sector’s hand, this right wing “grass roots, populist” anger toward the public sector is just a distraction created by the corporations that have almost taken over our country!

» on 02.26.13 @ 03:23 AM

Government civil servants should make much less than the people who produce and pay their salaries..

Government creates nothing, and lives off the rest of us.

» on 02.26.13 @ 05:52 AM

Noozhawkuser, let me guess - you’re an employee of the city and a member of a public employee union. Everyone in Santa Barbara is more than happy to pay your undeserved salary and outrageous pensions with ever increasing fees and taxes for poorly-provided city services.

» on 02.26.13 @ 12:26 PM

Renovating the Parks&Rec;? How about charging users’ fees? Get grants? If there are not enough users or if there are no grants or gifts from the affluent, then cut back on what is a bloated department. Similarly for others with hands out.

Building a new police station? How about renovating the existing one? The police station is an important public use facility—- Parks/Rec is also, but, at least in the Rec. division, there needs to be a reality check: much of their work could be privatized with a serious saving of money.

The city’s “needs (may be) growing every year” but for most of us our incomes are not or at least not on the scale of the salaries and benefits of city employees. Who among us has dental and vision insurance, for instance? Easy answer: city (and county) employees, paid for by us who can’t afford it.

City government and its employees are here to help us. They’re our - the citizens of Santa Barbara - servants. Increasingly, they are becoming our masters getting as part of their “service” what we can not afford. ...until they retire at 60 with 80% of their salary (and benefits.)

It’s time for a reality check: city government is bleeding us dry with its bowing and bending to the public employee unions, with its probable demand for a regressive sales tax increase for “infrastructure”.  We may not be able to change existing contracts but we most certainly can change the structure for newly hired and also cut back on what we have.

No! to a sales tax increase: that kind of tax is not only wrong, it will help drive remaining locally-based businesses out of Santa Barbara.

(And Mr. Segal: Michael Self was her own worst enemy; fiscally, she may have been on the right track, but on the rest, her fixation on bulbouts, for instance, she became a laughingstock. And that’s deadly. Cathy Murillo, also a newcomer as a politician, ran a much, much better grassroots campaign. Remains to see how she does as councilmember.)

» on 02.26.13 @ 01:40 PM


Check out this link and you can see why I liked Michael Self. She was the only council member to oppose an increase in rates on municipal utility rates. Here is what she said:

“I think in these times we need to consider our residents, and maybe we can’t do everything we want to do when we want to do it”

I think one reason why she lost is because the police and public employee unions withdrew their support of her because she refused to indulge their profligate demands. She suggested a two tier pension system, whereby new hires would receive less generous benefits than grandfathered employees. This very sensible proposal got the predictable response from the unions. You would have thought she had killed their firstborn.

You may be right that Cathy Murillo ran a shrewder campaign and did a better job pandering to various constituencies but that doesn’t mean Michael Self would not have been a better public servant.

» on 02.26.13 @ 01:50 PM

Here is another example when Michael Self was the lone vote in opposing city expenditures on questionable projects.

» on 02.26.13 @ 02:23 PM

Regarding our recent increase in water and sewer rates resulting from the city’s negligence in maintaining infrastructure and complying with federal and state law, community development director Paul Casey stated at the February 2 Planning Commission meeting that the city has reserved $30-$40 million for use on city projects. Seems kind of silly for the city to neglect citizen input from Channelkeeper for 13 years and incur the cost of litigation, but at least we haven’t had a class action resulting from chronic health problems caused by polluted beaches.

» on 02.26.13 @ 03:49 PM

We need a citizen’s oversight committee on local government fraud and waste, not more taxes. Anyone out there know that if the city’s 40 year-old water meter at your residence breaks and your water use for that month increases by over 800% as a result, the city will not adjust their billing other than billing you for the water you didn’t use at the Block 1 rate. A violation of CA Government Code, which allows charges only for actual use.

» on 02.26.13 @ 05:21 PM

The best comment made on this article so far was from Lou Segal “Santa Barbara voters only have themselves to blame for the current tax and spend high-rollers on the City Council”. Well said Lou. You voted for them now reap the consequence of your own stupidity.

The nation as well will reap a similar reward with our newly reelected president.

» on 02.26.13 @ 11:36 PM

AN50: The citizen’s litigation against the city for long-term violation of the Clean Water Act, the culmination of SB Channelkeepers 13 years of lobbying, was an excellent demonstration of cc’s refusal to acknowledge input from city residents. The 2 years of city council discussion on the topic of medical cannabis dispensaries in one of the four counties in the state to pass Prop 19, and the city’s support of SBPD crimes against residents are additional examples. Rowse’s appointment to fill Das Williams seat didn’t indicate that cc members view themselves as representatives of the electorate in a democratic government. City council’s self-proclaimed “fiscal conservatives”, Rowse and Francisco, are responsible for the city’s most egregious overspending, in insisting on increased SBPD hiring, not justified by crime stats, according to Chief Sanchez and Assistant Chief Mannix. The primary issue in city spending is that we have a local government that functions on a political agenda independent of the opinions of voters.

» on 03.13.13 @ 01:46 PM

The major issue is that we have a mayor and city council who ignore the function their positions entail as defined in the city charter, an issue that supercedes choice of candidates, their ethics or qualifications, as well as the competence of the electorate. These are people chosen by the constituency as their representatives or liasons to city government, not as the representatives of government to the constituency that their actions confirm as their interpretation of their elected offices. The city administer, city attorney, city staff, and directors of city departments are representatives of city government, and the mayor and city council are supposedly representatives of the people. In reality, Santa Barbara residents have no representation in government.

» on 03.13.13 @ 02:42 PM

And that meeting is scheduled (ongoing, as I write) for this morning at 9AM, cozily-scheduled so there is no TV and probably few Santa Barbarans in attendance. Hope that Noozhawk is there.

They should be aware of the recent, 3/5, LA ballot where they (after 10-4 vote by the council and only a little more than 16% of the eligible voters voted) voted 55-45% against the sales tax increase, even though it was sexily titled ” neighborhood public safety and vital city services funding and accountability measure”.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.