Goleta City Council voted 3:2 this week not to fund the 2-1-1 helpline. The human service phone line, run by the county, received support in concept from the council. However, councilmembers hesitated Tuesday due to lack of dialogue with the county regarding the Revenue Neutrality Agreement. The agreement went into effect 15 years ago with Goleta’s incorporation; it perpetually locks the city into paying an additional portion of tax revenue to the county.
Revived from a two-year hiatus last August with help from the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, the helpline has provided free, confidential information in over 150 languages to county residents since 2005. Last year, Goleta fielded over 250 individual calls, among the highest percentages of cities incorporated by the county.
The helpline is currently funded by a variety of different departments, and with a $61,000 shortfall, the program is requesting contributions on behalf of its various cities. Thus far, Santa Barbara is the only city to participate. Currently, Santa Maria is the biggest user of the system but has yet to pledge its support.
“I’m feeling very strongly that there is a need for 2-1-1,” said Councilmember Paula Perotte. “I think people still don’t realize it’s available. I wholeheartedly support 2-1-1.” Perotte’s sentiments in favor of 2-1-1 were shared by all members of the council Tuesday, but the discussion eventually came back to the issue of funding and revenue neutrality with the county. “There’s growing discontent in the City of Goleta on the issue of revenue neutrality,” said Mayor Jim Farr.
Inevitably, the vote came down to an agreement that Goleta must take a firm stance when it comes to dealing with the county on financial matters. “Can we afford it? Yes,” said Aceves. “But until other cities step up, we should stay out.” “It’s all about money. We’re making sure our message to the county is consistent.”
Just last month, Farr brought up the Revenue Neutrality Agreement at a 3rd District County Supervisor candidates forum. Noting that the length of the agreement seemed unfair, all four candidates said they would revisit the issue.