More than 250 people hit the buffet line at the Elks Lodge #613 on Friday before sitting down to listen to the City of Goleta’s “State of the City” address, the annual show-and-tell from civic officials who, at least in recent years, must do all they can to paint a rosier picture of admittedly bleak times. But luckily for Goleta — the eight-year-old city where property taxes have remained stable compared to Santa Barbara and a soon-to-expire deal with the county guarantees increased funding in the years to come — there’s much more rosy paint to go around than elsewhere.
After a welcoming that quoted Charles Dickens’s “best of times, worst of times” and include the obligatory nods to elected officials and supporting businesses, City Manager Dan Singer laid out the finances in an easily digestible manner. Explaining that the city generates revenues from property, sales, and bed taxes, licensing and services, and then smaller sources, he showed a graph that illustrated the 2007 funding peak. “Since then, as they would say,” explained Singer, “it’s all been downhill.”
But due to the revenue neutrality agreement with the County of Santa Barbara — the contract that newly incorporated cities must sign in order to keep their root jurisdiction from facing financial peril — Goleta sits in a curiously pretty place, for the 10-year agreement ends in 2012. When that happens, said Singer, the city will start getting more sales and bed tax revenues that now go to the county. “We expect to experience, in 2012 and beyond, that bump,” said Singer, explaining that, based on estimates, the end of that contract will push sales taxes to be more substantial than property taxes.
As well, property taxes have remained stable in large part due to the limits of growth imposed by the city and the high demand that creates. “We’re thankful to have that,” said Singer. While sales tax is higher than the state average, said Singer, the bed tax fluctuates dramatically from the summer months, when it peaks, through the rest of the lagging year. Singer said the city is working with the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and other agencies to “market Goleta just a little better.” Singer also applauded the coming of Best Buy and Ross Dress-for-Less at the Camino Real Marketplace, but admitted that since 2007, “There hasn’t been a lot that’s too encouraging.”
Most importantly, Singer said that the small size of the city’s bureaucracy was critical to surviving in these tough times. “We are still a very small and lean organization so we can move more readily with the challenges that face us,” he said.
Following Singer was Vyto Adomaitas, the City of Goleta’s redevelopment agency, neighborhood services, and public safety director, who gave a rundown of the city’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, which was approved in October 2009. He also covered the redevelopment philosophy for Old Town Goleta — “We’re not asking you for money, we’re trying to provide you with assistance” — explained that the city officials had recently been touring local businesses, mentioned a future hotel and conference center study, and said that the city was pursuing grants for environmental and transportation work.
Last up was Mayor Eric Onnen, who managed to sum up the day’s event in his introduction. “Even in the challenging times we have,” proclaimed Onnen, “the City of Goleta has still delivered what it intended to deliver.”