In Final Analysis, Santa Barbara Sales Tax Hike Backed by 56 Percent of Voters

Certified results from the Nov. 7 election show that 56.2 percent of Santa Barbara voters approved the 1-percent sales tax rate increase, which will take effect April 1.

The revenues are intended to be spent on infrastructure and government services, but as a general tax, there are few legal limits on how the money can be used.

The city’s sales tax will increase to 8.75 percent from the current 7.75 percent rate.

City officials have estimated the 1-percent increase will bring in an additional $22 million per year, and City Council members have said spending priorities include streets maintenance and debt service on a new police station.

The Santa Barbara Police Departmentheadquarters building, at 215 E. Figueroa St., is seismically unsafe, which forced the relocation of the basement dispatch center to another site.

Building a new station is estimated to cost $80 million, with annual debt service payments around $8 million, according to the city.

The sales tax applies to most retail goods, but essentials including groceries, bottled water and prescription drugs are exempt, city finance director Bob Samario said.

The ballot language and ordinance for the sales tax hike, known as Measure C, requires the city to create an oversight committee, which will review city spending for the new sales tax revenues.

City staff also will be tracking the revenues and reporting how they were spent, to ensure “they are in fact being spent as intended,” Samario added.

Measure C does not have a sunset clause, meaning it will be in effect in perpetuity unless it is repealed by voters through a ballot initiative.

— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com

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