Goleta-County Squabble Sparks Up
Revenue Neutrality Agreement Resurfaces
Shaking heads and skepticism preceded unanimous assent from the supervisors on Tuesday for Supervisor Janet Wolf to engage in a future “conversation” with Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett and Assemblymember Das Williams over the city’s tax-sharing deal — known as the revenue-neutrality agreement (RNA) — with the county. This year, including during Wolf’s reelection campaign against City Councilmember Roger Aceves, has seen city officials ramp up their anti-RNA efforts, with Bennett leading the charge for change after three previous discussions went nowhere.
“Danged if you do, danged if you don’t,” said Supervisor Peter Adam, who joined his colleagues in worrying that a meeting would get hopes too high. Supervisor Doreen Farr questioned language used by Bennett in a letter to Wolf about the issue — he wrote that the city wants to “look at a local solution” — and further questioned the role the Legislature could play in the matter; County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni said he wouldn’t “expect to see a role for the state.” Others also pondered the reasons for Williams’s involvement, especially given his rumored upcoming run for supervisor.
Williams, who said he isn’t aware of possible state-level changes to the RNA law, added his role isn’t tied to any future plans “What I might run for in two years is not going to stop me from taking political risks and working hard for my constituents — that’s just what I do,” he said. Bennett said the point of the meeting would be to “find some common ground” but that he would support state-level changes as “another avenue available.”
Approved by voters in 2001 alongside a vote for cityhood, the deal spawns from a statewide law that aims to ensure counties don’t have the financial rug swept out from under them when cities incorporate. Under the first decade of Goleta’s plan — which will live on forever without renegotiation — the city evenly split its property-tax and sales-tax revenues with the county and kept 60 percent of its hotel-tax money; last year, the hotel-tax component ended and the sales-tax component decreased. The county has argued the services it provides to the city surpass the amount of money shared.