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Goleta Weathering Financial Storm Better Than Others, Officials Say

City officials provide business with annual report at Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon

It’s been a year of Dickensian proportions for California cities, as one presenter put it, but Goleta is one of the few that seems to have fared relatively well, according to officials at Friday’s third annual State of the City luncheon sponsored by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

And with a packed dining hall at the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge #613 in Goleta, the partnership between the chamber of commerce and the city was at an all-time high, with a record 35 businesses sponsoring the event.

City Manager Dan Singer got right to the point, running through a series of slides outlining the city’s revenue streams, the biggest of which are property, sales and transient occupancy tax — essentially a bed tax on the city’s hotels.

Although every other category of revenue has declined, property tax, the Goleta’s largest source of revenue, has remained stable, Singer said. This is even more remarkable when compared to Santa Barbara, Lompoc and Santa Maria, which have all seen declines in property tax revenue.

The brightest spot in Goleta’s economy is yet to come, however. In mid-2012, Goleta will be free of its revenue-neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County, a contract long-lamented by city leaders. Since Goleta’s incorporation in 2002, the city has been giving nearly half of its tax revenues to the county as a condition of the city’s formation. The city’s obligations to the county have risen to more than $8 million a year as the municipal budget has grown.

Vyto Adomaitis, the city’s redevelopment and neighborhood services director, followed Singer with an outline of how Goleta is embracing economic development. He said his department, which has made it a point to visit local companies for one-on-one discussions, has adopted the message that the city must respond quickly to the needs of business. That response is imperative, he said, if the city wants to maintain a healthy environment for its best asset: the community’s human resources.

Mayor Eric Onnen picked up on Adomaitis’ theme and drove it home for the audience of business and community leaders.

“Just like a business, the city is continuously evaluating how to bring value to the community,” said Onnen, founder of Santa Barbara Airbus. “We’re doing that successfully, even in challenging times and with a decline in revenues.”

Onnen listed a number of enhancements the city has made in the last year, touting public safety and the South Coast’s lowest crime rate; capital improvements like the Los Carneros Road landscape beautification process; development approvals for ATK, Cabrillo Business Park and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital; major communications improvements; and even new sign approvals.

“You may not think we ever approve new signs, but we do,” he said, displaying the new looks for Cox Communications, Holiday Inn and Sumida Gardens.

Onnen said Goleta is headed in the right direction, even if it’s taking incremental steps along the way.

“Lots of communities are having to reset, but we have an advantage: We never got set,” he said. “While other cities face significant problems and cutbacks, we’re looking at 3 percent variables.

“We’re in a good position for when the economy turns around, or even if the recession continues a little longer.”

MarBorg Industries was the presenting sponsor for the Goleta Valley chamber’s third annual State of the City luncheon. The event was co-sponsored by Cox Communications, The Towbes Group and Venoco Inc.

Corporate sponsors were Allied Waste Services, ATK, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Business First Bank, Cabrillo Business Park, Jordano’s and sbparent.com.

Supporting sponsors were Camino Real Marketplace, Community West Bank, Hayes Commercial Group, Latitude 34˚ Technologies, Marmalade Café, media27, Noozhawk, Penfield & Smith, Santa Barbara Airport, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and UCSB.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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