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City of Goleta on Firm Financial Footing Heading Into 2015

City Manager Michelle Greene and Mayor Paula Perotte share details at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce

Goleta is starting 2015 on firm financial footing, according to two city officials who spoke Wednesday to a room of business and community leaders.

Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, who took the helm in December, and City Manager Michelle Greene, who has been in that position since October, both spoke to a group gathered for lunch at the Glen Annie Golf Club about their goals for the city in the new year.

The event was the January Issue & Policy Roundtable hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The city is in enviable financial shape, and brought in $23 million in revenues last year while keeping expenses down to $19 million, leaving it with a net of $4 million, Greene said.

Not only has the city weathered its challenges, but it's growing, she said.

Recently, the city has seen impressive growth, including a 25 percent increase last quarter for the transient occupancy tax, the city's charge added to hotel beds. Sales tax also saw a whopping 18 percent increase.

The city was able to set aside $14 million in reserves, Greene said.

The presentation prompted a question about whether the city will continue to push to renegotiate the revenue neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County. That agreement, which requires the City of Goleta to give half of its property taxes and a significant portion of sales tax revenues to the county indefinitely, was one of the conditions for Goleta incorporating in 2002.

Recently, officials including City Councilman Michael Bennett have asked the county to sit down for talks on the issue.

Even with the upswing in revenues, Greene said the city is approaching almost $100 million in funds going to the county since incorporation.  

"It's a significant number," she said, with Perotte adding that the talks are "still a priority for our council," a comment made more pointed for the county officials in the room, including Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, whose district includes Goleta.

The city is also looking forward to breaking ground on Fire Station 10 in western Goleta, moving forward on developing its own zoning code, and improving walkways and crosswalks along Hollister Avenue in Old Town, Greene said.

Perotte said she wants her term to be characterized by "making Old Town evolve into the best it can be." Getting more residents to participate in the public process is important to her as well.

Perotte said she was "disappointed" at a City Council race in which incumbents were appointed in lieu of election for three open council seats since they all ran unopposed last fall. 

"Maybe in 2016, we might have a race," she said.

There's also a great amount of development in the works within the city limits, with housing projects like Westar, Willow Springs II, Village at Los Carneros and The Hideaway all adding units to the city's housing stock.

Other projects lay just outside the city's boundaries but will likely have impacts on Goleta, such as UCSB's Long Range Development Plan, which plans to add 5,000 more students to its capacity.

"I hope I don't sound negative on this … It's just something for the community to be aware of," Perotte said.

Maintaining the services residents expect in the midst of the growth will be a challenge, but Perotte said it's possible if the city works together.

The city is also exploring options for a new civic center, which would have a home at the Goleta Valley Community Center. A feasibility study is expected to go before the council sometime in February.

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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