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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 9:40 pm | Fair 51º


Goleta City Council Gives Full Funding Support to Tourism Promotion, Visitor Services

Goleta will be spending fewer dollars on nonprofit support this next year as part of new funding approved last week by the City Council.

The council on Oct. 2 took up recommendations from its grant funding review committee, which began working with outside organizations on the issue some 18 months ago. The goal was to trim the city’s roughly $600,000 outlay to $500,000 that the council had budgeted in support for other agencies in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The organizations help enhance the quality of life of Goleta, and provide programs or services the city is unable to administer itself or prefers to outsource. Girsh Park, the Goleta Union School District, the Goleta Valley Community Center and Rancho La Patera & Stow House are among more than a dozen agencies that receive such municipal support.

Tourism promotion and visitor services — contractually provided by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce since 2013 — also came under scrutiny from the committee, which proposed cutting the $125,000 annual visitor services contract in half amid a debate on how the money was being spent.

In the end, the council dismissed that recommendation on a 4-1 vote. Mayor Paula Perotte and Councilmen Roger Aceves, Michael Bennett and Kyle Richards voted to keep the contract as is.

The lone dissenter was Councilman Stuart Kasdin, a member of the grant review committee that also included Perotte, three city staff members and two community representatives.

“We went through what the chamber had included and looked at the things we thought were essential or priorities or visitor services,” he said. “We didn’t just arbitrarily reduce the number because we didn’t care about tourism or we were trying to harm businesses or anything like that.”

The Goleta chamber receives about $160,000 annually from the South Coast Tourism Business Improvement District to promote the community as a destination — locally, regionally and nationally.

In the past, the city has contributed an additional $150,000 to the cause each year, an amount that is significantly below what other Santa Barbara County cities invest in tourism outreach and visitor services.

Local business and civic leaders were out in force to express support for tourism and visitor spending, outlining the ways that chamber-led marketing and promotion pay off for the community, business activities and local events, like the Goleta Lemon Festival.

“The proposed de-funding of tourism is new, and comes from Mayor Pro Tem Kasdin’s memo to the committee in which he states that he does not believe Goleta is a destination and that we should invest the $150,000 into buying hotel rooms so that they stay full,” said Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce.

“We know that he’s not a fan, but I’m not sure that this policy applies to the whole council.”

The City Council previously had approved program guidelines for the “support to other agencies” process, and directed city staff to move forward with requests for proposals limited to nonprofit and/or governmental agencies that had received funding for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Line item funding was appropriated during an earlier budget development process.

At last week’s meeting, the council agreed that funding support for agencies such as the chamber and the Goleta Union and Santa Barbara Unified school districts would be better handled under memoranda of understanding.

The city also will be looking at forming a homelessness strategic plan in the near future, according to Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols. As part of that effort, she said, the city likely would make funds available for homeless programs under its own process.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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