Santa Barbara County ended the last fiscal year with general revenues $16.2 million over budget, pushed by high income from property taxes, property-transfer taxes, sales taxes and transient-occupancy taxes.
Local cities also have been reporting higher tax revenues in recent months, a sign of rebounding from pandemic slowdowns.
The city of Solvang last year recorded its highest-ever amounts of sales taxes and transient-occupancy taxes (TOT), which are collected from customers at hotels, motels and short-term rentals.
Santa Barbara collected 20% more TOT revenues this July than the same month last year, which was pushed by strong demand and higher daily room rates.
The county’s cannabis tax revenues were much lower than expected, coming in $10.3 million under budget, said Steven Yee of the County Executive Office. Yee gave the Board of Supervisors a financial update last week.
Revenues from cannabis-related businesses – including cultivation, processing, distribution, and retail – have been lower-than-expected for more than a year due to a combination of factors.
Local operators pay taxes based on their gross receipts, and wholesale marijuana values have been lower in the past year, according to county staff.
No retail dispensaries have opened in the unincorporated areas yet, even though several local cities have had these shops for a few years.
Yee said the county has issued 55 cannabis-related businesses licenses so far.
He also said there were six cultivators who were required to shut down by June 30. They were operating under legal non-conforming status, and that was the deadline to close if they didn’t get permits from the county.
Brittany Heaton, who works on cannabis policy for the county, said there are about 500 acres of cannabis cultivation in the inland area, and most people with county and state licenses are growing.
The year-end financial update also said that Sheriff’s Office overtime costs exceeded the 2021-22 budget by $8.6 million. Federal COVID-19 relief money and other funds were used to make up the gap.
The overtime over-budget amount was $6 million in May, and the Board of Supervisors directed the County Executive Office to develop a long-term hiring/staffing and overtime mitigation plan for the department.
County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said this week that her office will come back in a few months with recommendations.