Second District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf voted against adopting the $1.1 billion 2018-19 fiscal budget at Monday’s hearing — her first vote against a budget in her 12-year tenure. It will also be her last; she retires this year. Wolf said her reservation stemmed from the inclusion of the county’s all-new cannabis-tax revenue as a onetime funding source for projects.
On June 5, voters passed the tax on cannabis operations. The ballot measure estimated a revenue stream between $5 million and $25 million annually. However, the board used a much more conservative income of $6.2 million, of which $1.7 million funds enforcement against illegal cannabis operations. This first year, about $4.6 million will be available as a onetime funding source to distribute among one-off investments or projects. However, wary of allocating money they do not yet have, supervisors erred on the side of caution and reduced the net cannabis tax revenue expectation to $3.75 million. They distributed the money among maintenance, public libraries, and the utility-grade solar ordinance and placed $1.5 million back into the strategic reserve. The majority of supervisors were on board, and the budget passed with a vote of 4-1.
“I’m incredibly disappointed,” Wolf said. “We are moving forward with an allocation of money that we don’t even know that we have.” First District Supervisor Das Williams disagreed. “I think it’s a fiscally prudent budget,” he said. Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam, known for voting against the majority, commended Wolf. “I think it’s really healthy when not everyone votes for a budget,” he said. “Coming up with something that not everybody can agree on — that means it’s better.” Before the meeting adjourned, Williams led the supervisors in a round of applause for Wolf’s 12th and final budget hearing.