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    Santa Barbara City Council Votes to Place Half-Cent Sales Tax Measure on the November Ballot

    On June 11, 2024, the City of Santa Barbara Council voted unanimously to place the Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure on the November 5, 2024, ballot. If Santa Barbara voters approve, the measure will generate an estimated $15.6 million annually to support the City’s General Fund, which pays for local services, including public safety, maintenance, libraries, affordable housing, and more.

    The Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure was placed on the ballot after a series of more than 20 community meetings, including six public town halls, between October 2023 and May 2024. At these meetings, staff discussed the status of the City’s services, budget, and the potential for new revenue to support them. A community survey found that a majority of respondents rated the following areas as high priority: maintaining 911 emergency fire, paramedic, and police response; improving housing affordability; preventing thefts and property crime; addressing homelessness; and keeping public areas safe and clean.

    These services and others are supported by the City’s General Fund. Current forecasts suggest that the General Fund could see deficits of as much as 5–7% ($11M-$15M) within the next three years, despite several years of budget reductions across City departments.

    During the June 4th council meeting, Finance Director Keith DeMartini stated, “Our charge was set out to develop a list of all the ways we could generate additional revenue as an organization. We really left no stone unturned.” He later added, “Sales Tax would generate the most revenue annually,” and “it’s also really important to note that nearly half of all the sales tax dollars that are generated do come from tourists.”

    The Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure ballot question reads: “Shall the measure maintaining 9-1-1 emergency/fire/paramedic/police response, keeping neighborhood fire stations open; improving housing affordability; addressing homelessness; keeping public areas/parks safe, clean; maintaining library services, stormwater protection; improving natural disaster preparedness; retaining local businesses/jobs, and for general government use; by establishing a ½¢ sales tax providing approximately $15,600,000 annually until ended by voters; requiring audits, public spending disclosure, all funds used locally, be adopted?”

    The measure would add a ½ cent tax to applicable purchases in Santa Barbara and includes accountability provisions, including public disclosure of all spending, and annual independent financial audits. The proposed tax increase would be collected in the same manner as the existing City sales and use tax and would be subject to all the same tax exemptions, such as services, rent, groceries, prescription medicine, utilities, diapers, and feminine hygiene products. For a complete list of all the sales and use tax exemptions, please visit the California Tax Service Center.

    Legally, funds generated by the Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure cannot be taken by the State government or transferred to any other agency. The measure requires a majority approval of Santa Barbara City voters this November 2024.

    More information about the Santa Barbara Essential Local Services Measure can be found at SantaBarbaraCA.gov/Nov2024Ballot.



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