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Goleta Exploring Special Tax Ballot Measure to Fund City Library

City Council supports moving forward with plans in the face of growing library deficit and capital improvement needs

Goleta is pursuing a special tax ballot measure for November 2016 to provide more funding for the city’s library.
Goleta is pursuing a special tax ballot measure for November 2016 to provide more funding for the city’s library.  (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

The Goleta Valley Library has been financially struggling in recent years, and city voters may be asked next fall to approve a special tax measure to increase funding. 

Goleta City Council members on Tuesday unanimously voted to send a letter asking Santa Barbara County officials to weigh in on concurrent ballot measures for next fall, one that would fund the Goleta Valley Library and another that would fund libraries in unincorporated county areas.

They also committed, at least in concept, to commit more of the city’s general fund to the library. How much will be determined during their budget process in the coming months.

So far, attempts to balance the library budget by reducing staff, operating hours and other items have been unsuccessful. The library is currently facing a deficit of more than $200,000, which could grow to over $500,000 by 2019.

In addition, more than $1 million in capital improvements are needed over the next 20 years and could lead to higher costs if deferred.

The Goleta Valley Library is already funded by Measure L monies, a special tax that funds services at the library. Voters in county service area three, the Goleta Valley, approved the measure in June 1990. 

After the city’s incorporation, the city became the successor and assumed ownership of the library.

However, Measure L funding has not proved enough to sustain the library, and Goleta contributes less from its general fund to its library than other places, said Corinne Horowitz, president of the Friends of the Goleta Library

Speaking during the meeting, Horowitz said less than 10 percent of the library’s budget comes from general fund in Goleta, contrasting with Santa Barbara, which contributes 64 percent of the library budget from the general fund.

In July, Goleta’s council members got an update on the library, and a study found that the current service levels are unsustainable without significant increases in funding.

Council directed staff to explore options with the County of Santa Barbara to pursue concurrent special tax ballot measures for the November 2016 ballot.

The possibility of Goleta making a larger general fund contribution was also suggested.

In addition to running alongside a county measure, the city’s letter to the county states that the city would foot the bill for tax analysis, public polling and public information, which could be as much as $87,500. 

Discussion on the council dais quickly moved from the library to bitterness about the revenue neutrality act with the county.

That’s the agreement between the two agencies that requires the City of Goleta to give half of its property taxes and a significant portion of sales tax revenues to the county forever, which was a condition for Goleta incorporating in 2002.

Councilman Roger Aceves took umbrage at the county’s suggestion that the city doesn’t contribute from its general fund.

“Take it from the $105 million you already take from us,” Aceves quipped.

Council member Tony Vallejo agreed.

“They’re telling us our residents are paying enough,” he said. “We have a tight budget because we’re stuck with this revenue neutrality agreement and they’re telling us, ‘Give us more money.’”

Mayor Paula Perotte said she shared their frustration but that the library must come first.

“I feel like we’re almost holding our children hostage… This is about them,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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