The Santa Barbara City Council is considering whether to put a sales tax increase on this November’s ballot to help offset the $200 million gap between City Hall’s projected capital needs and the funds that bean counters project it will have to pay for them. A half-cent bump in the sales tax would generate approximately $10 million a year, a revenue stream that could be used to justify the sale of new municipal bonds. Only a simple council majority would be required to place the item before city voters this November, and only a simple majority of voters would be required to enact it.
Even though city finances have taken a decided and consistent turn for the better in recent months, officials worry that the loss of redevelopment agency dollars and the increased demand of pension obligations for retired workers still have city coffers behind the proverbial eight ball. As the economy appears to improve, officials find residents wanting cut services restored.
A case in point involves the once public tennis courts on Las Positas Road, which City Hall turned over to the Elings Park Foundation. In recent months, Las Positas players have seen their annual court costs jump from $140 to $490 with the change of management and have not been shy about expressing their unhappiness. While the council never deliberated over the fate of the Las Positas courts, it will deliberate over a possible sales tax increase early this March.