Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 10:50 pm | Fair 52º


Santa Barbara Council to Consider Polling City Voters on Possible Tax Measure

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday will consider funding a poll to determine whether there is voter support for a city tax measure in the November election.

City Administrator Jim Armstrong recommends choosing Godbe Research, which submitted a bid of $30,015 for surveying 600 people. If approved, three council members would form an ad hoc committee to help the consultants form the survey questions to pose to registered voters.

Armstrong has suggested that the city look into new revenue sources, including a sales tax increase or general obligation bond measure, for the city’s November ballot.

At a budget workshop last month, he said the city could continue with its balanced budgets without a higher or new tax, but it wouldn’t be able to deal with the mounting infrastructure and pension needs without new revenues.

The city has $441 million in unfunded capital needs projects — including an estimated $216 million for streets maintenance and $54.5 million for a replacement police station — and a huge shortfall in pension funding.

Last year, Finance Director Bob Samario said the city has $267 million in unfunded pension liability because of low investment returns and many benefit enhancements in the past decade.

Council members are split on the idea of a new revenue measure, but several have at least voiced support for funding a poll, which would be paid for out of general fund reserves.

At least five of the seven members would need to approve putting a measure on November’s ballot, and the council would need unanimous approval to put a measure on the ballot in 2014 or any other non-city election year, according to City Attorney Steve Wiley.

City officials need to make a decision by July to have time for printing voter information pamphlets and the ballots, according to a staff report.

“I know the idea of higher taxes is not popular,” Armstrong said at the State of the City address. However, it’s the duty of city staff “to look at the future and be realistic about the challenges we face.”

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.

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