It’s another fight for self-funding for the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD), which is urging Isla Vistans to vote yes on a utility user tax on the June 5 ballot.
The ballot measure outlines an eight percent tax on utilities that would pay for projects like public parking, landlord/tenant mediation services, a community center, and community policing programs, among other “crucial needs” of the area. If voters fail to approve a funding tax in I.V. by 2023, the IVCSD ceases to exist.
If passed, though, Isla Vistans will start paying the tax on gas, water, electricity, sewer, and garbage disposal service bills as soon as one to two months after the vote. According to Spencer Brandt, secretary of the IVCSD Board of Directors, the tax would generate over $702,000 annually for the district, a vast improvement over the $23,000 in private grants and $78,000 from UC Santa Barbara it received for mutually agreeable projects this fiscal year.
This is Isla Vista’s second run at taxation in recent years: in 2016, organizers tried and failed by a few percentage points to pass a similar measure. June’s ballot initiative also requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
The IVCSD thus far has managed to complete some projects without the proposed user utility tax, including a weekend night safety station program that costs $47,000 and a landlord/tenant mediation service that costs $33,000. Brandt said those programs would be in jeopardy if the IVCSD can’t find a constant stream of funding.
Opponents, such as Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes, say that the tax will put a burden on residents, businesses, and landlords, and are ultimately unnecessary. Attorney and landlord Chuck Eckert, a supporter of the Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes’ effort, questioned why additional funding was necessary if the group had already secured grants from places like the Santa Barbara Foundation.
Utility bills can vary greatly, Eckert claimed, and the additional cost may be enough to encourage some students to move out of I.V. In the city of Santa Barbara, utilities average $110 per household, according to an estimate from Numbeo, an online database of user reports on cost of living. According to Yes on Measure R campaign volunteer Jonathan Abboud, the eight percent tax would equal just a few dollars on each utility bill.
“There are many leases out there in I.V. that have clauses that provide that any new tax or any increase in tax that occurs during the period of rental agreement will be passed on to the renters, dollar for dollar,” Eckert said.
Eckert also expressed concerns about how the tax would affect low-income residents and business owners in Isla Vista. The district is still working out a plan with businesses, but has proposed an exemption from the tax for low-income residents who qualify for SoCal Edison’s California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program.