New Taxes for Repair Backlog?

The Santa Barbara City Council agreed to hire a professional polling company to gauge the level of support for new taxes to address the city’s vast unmet infrastructure needs. Nina Johnson, assistant city administrator, estimated there’s a $500 million gap between the repairs the city needs to make and its ability to pay for them.

To make up that difference, City Hall is contemplating possible increases in sales taxes, bed taxes, property taxes, and parking taxes. Any tax increases have to be approved by city voters and the poll would help the council decide how much to ask for, for what projects, and by what means.

An informal survey of 493 residents — who attended one of 17 community workshops on the matter — indicated the top four infrastructure priorities are increased road repair, the construction of a new police station, better sidewalks, and bicycle facilities.

Councilmember Gregg Hart said a more scientific poll would help the council “not to hear what it wanted to hear as opposed to what people are trying to say.” Councilmember Dale Francisco blamed the cost of employee pensions and unions for shifting resources away from what many consider fundamental government services.

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