Goleta City Council votes down to add tax measure to November ballot
The Goleta City Council split, 3-2, over a ballot measure to add a general one-cent sales tax Tuesday night, therefore, causing the proposal to fall short of being added to the November ballot, as a majority, or four votes, were needed in order to pass.
The sales tax would have helped the city make up a significant amount of revenue — an estimated $7 million — as the city currently faces shortfalls in the projected amount of $8.6 million in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 fiscal years due to COVID-19.
Councilmembers Roger Aceves and Stuart Kasdin, who voted against a similar measure in June, voted against the ballot measure on Tuesday night, citing how it would affect local citizens who are already facing enough issues due to the novel coronavirus.
“People do not want to see a general sales tax in the middle of a recession … I think about those that are not working, those who have lost their jobs, maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. And many of them are going to the food bank because they cannot put food on the table. And now we want to increase the sales tax?,” Coucilmember Aceves said.
Councilmember Aveces added that while the city spent $60,000 on polling to see how to react to a sales tax, he has not talked to one person himself in favor of the decision.
“We put our hat on the fact that our polling shows that there’s support for the measure. I talk to people every day. Not a single person has told me they support a sales tax, they think we’re crazy,” Counilmember Aceves said.
“I could see us doing this, but not now, the timing is all wrong.”
Councilmember Kasdin also alluded to the fact that the timing is wrong, but added that a general sales tax is regressive and would burden poor people more than anyone else.
“Just because we’re spending money on good things, even if they are fine things, it’s still a regressive tax, that’s the nature of it. … The first thing I think should have been for us to look at alternatives and decide what type of tax we want,” Councilmember Kasdin said.
He went on to add that while the money would help the city try to accomplish many of the things on its project list, he is not necessarily in favor of everyone of those measures and that they could wait to try to attain the money for those.
Mayor Pro Tempore Kyle Richards stated the tax was a necessity due to the effect of the coronavirus.
“In the budget scenario that we passed (a couple of weeks ago), we were expecting the economy to experience a severe six-months shock, followed by a period of recovery, extending through June of 2021. … Well, I don’t know if you’ve been following the news, the same news that I have, but I don’t see this happening. I think they’re (budget projections) are going to be off. Honestly, I don’t know, I think they’re going to be too overly optimistic,” Pro Tem Richards said.
Councilmember James Kyriaco tried valiantly to save the measure by offering changes, which included even bumping the tax down from one cent to half a cent.
He added that the city still had a number of important things to do and needed money to do them, such as: Fire Station 10 in western Goleta which has yet to be built, maintaining roads, and helping secure other buildings.
“I remember back when I was still living in Santa Barbara … seeing my neighboring city was voting on city hood. The main thing I heard over and over and over again during that campaign was sidewalks and roads. They were tired of having the county give us the money that they felt was necessary for sidewalks and roads and public safety, and we wanted to make our decisions locally. And I think it’s important that now that we’ve been entrusted with city hood and entrusted with taking care of the same roads and the same sidewalks, I feel like that is something that we should fund,” Councilmember Kyriaco said.
At the end, councilmember Kyriaco said he would be willing to bring back the tax as a special tax, but was shot down.
“I don’t care what kind of tax you bring back, it’s still gonna be a tax. And it’s the wrong time. You bring it back again, I’m gonna vote against it,” Councilmember Aceves said.
Councilmember Kasdin agreed, adding that waiting is the best option.
The council did approve, however, putting a measure on the Nov. 3 ballot asking voters to decide on a two- or four-year Mayoral term. Currently, the Office of the Mayor in the City of Goleta is a two-year term.