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Goleta Council to Weigh Whether to Shoulder Its Share of Jail Sales Tax

A city report issued ahead of Tuesday's meeting raises concerns about costs and levels of service

Election season is heating up on the South Coast, and whether voters will support a measure to increase funding for a new jail has yet to be seen. Cities and officials are beginning to back the measure, and the Goleta City Council will be the next to issue or deny its support at a meeting Tuesday.

Whether Goleta will agree to shoulder an unfair burden of the sales tax needed to make the jail a reality has come under discussion. A report issued Thursday that will go before the City Council next week raises that concern.

The report, authored by Vyto Adomaitis, the neighborhood services and public safety director, raises several points of concern to the city.

“Although the city could receive an estimated $353,294 ... use of said monies would be restricted to front-line law enforcement or fire protection services,” the report stated. That could mean the city would have to increase its contract with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department beyond the 34 full-time positions it currently has in order to receive the money.

“It could not be used to offset future increases in the cost of current level of service,” according to the report.

The report also touches on the ever-present revenue neutrality condition the city is under.

“It can be argued that Goleta is disproportionately subsidizing county services, and another regional tax measure would only work to exacerbate this circumstance,” according to the report.

The county Board of Supervisors voted in July to approve placement of the proposal, also known as Measure S, on the Nov. 2 ballot. The measure requires two-thirds support from the electorate to pass.

The measure is intended to strengthen front-line law enforcement and fire protection within the county and in cities, including Goleta. Abating the county’s jail overcrowding problems is paramount to the measure, and half of the half-cent sales and use tax would be used to construct and operate a 304-bed jail. The tax would go into effect in July and last until 2025.

Goleta, with a population of 30,476, brought in about $3.2 million in sales tax last year, according to City Attorney Tim Giles.

At first glance, it doesn’t appear Goleta would be shouldering an unfair burden. According to financial documents, Santa Maria, with a population of 92,542, brought in $15.9 million in sales taxes last year. Likewise, Santa Barbara brought in $17.8 million in sales tax last year, and a has population of 90,308.

Technically, both cities would pay more per capita in sales tax toward the jail than Goleta. The difference comes with the revenue-neutrality agreement, which orders Goleta to pay half of its sales tax revenues to the county, a burden that neither Santa Barbara nor Santa Maria face. Last year’s $3.2 million in sales tax for the city of Goleta was the amount after the county took its cut.

There’s no staff recommendation at this point, said Giles, adding that Tuesday’s council discussion would be one of policy.

“We’re basically just putting this in front of the City Council to determine whether they support measure or not,” he said.

The City Council received a special presentation from Sheriff Bill Brown on Aug. 10, but it didn’t vote to support the item then. Although there appeared to be a general consensus, according to an earlier Noozhawk story, Mayor Eric Onnen expressed concern.

“(The jail) is intended to be a countywide benefit, so it’s really hard to do a local and regional cost benefit analysis,” Giles said.

Along with county supervisors, the Santa Barbara City Council has issued its support for the measure. The Carpinteria City Council is expected to weigh in on the measure at its Sept. 13 meeting. The Santa Maria City Council hasn’t issued a decision yet either.

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

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