Goleta Council Balks at Sales Tax for Ballot

Adds Mayor and Two Council Seats to November Election

Goleta's City Council, pictured here in pre-COVID days, failed on Tuesday to agree on a one-cent sales tax increase for November's ballot. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

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As they did three weeks ago, the Goleta City Council split 3-2 over a ballot measure to add one cent to the city’s sales tax on Tuesday night. The proposal required four votes to pass and would have raised an extra $7 million annually for city services to offset revenue losses from the pandemic shutdown. Citing the economic pain to citizens brought on by COVID-19, councilmembers Roger Aceves and Stuart Kasdin refused to budge on the issue.

Kasdin argued that he wasn’t necessarily in favor of all the $34.5 million in capital projects now put on hold; nor was he persuaded that there was an urgency to place the measure on November’s ballot. Maybe two years from now, Kasdin theorized, if the city could work up a proposal for a specific tax — for instance on luxury goods or a business opportunity tax — rather than a general tax that hurt the poor the most.

Aceves said everyone he’d talked to thought the council was crazy to think of raising taxes when people were going to the Foodbank to feed their families. Maybe voters would have bought a road tax, he said, but the timing was wrong, despite the polling. A city consultant had twice asked several hundred likely voters about the one cent per dollar sales tax increase — in February and in May — and more than half said they’d vote yes each time. It would have raised Goleta’s sales tax to 8.75 percent, or equal to Santa Barbara and Santa Maria’s.

Outlining how Fire Station 10 in western Goleta needed to be built, the community center earthquake-proofed, and city services like roads maintained before they crumbled, Councilmember James Kyriaco tried valiantly to rescue the doomed measure. Could they try for a special tax? After all, Goleta cityhood in 2002 was partly based on improving roads and sidewalks beyond the county’s level of service, he recalled. Less than an hour before, he added, the council had approved $200,000 in a grant and loan program for businesses hurt by the COVID recession. These were critical things needed now more than ever, and the new revenue was intended to secure more of it.

Kyriaco’s tenacity was applauded but because the four ayes were nonexistent, a vote was not even held on the sales tax.

Other measures will appear on the ballot, however, including the race for mayor and two council seats, Kasdin’s and Kyle Richards’s; they have until August 7 to file for reelection. As the clock ticked past 10 p.m., Aceves went on the record opposed to the ballot measure to extend the mayor’s term from two years to four — Aceves is running for the office against Mayor Paula Perotte. The increased term was proposed by the city’s Public Engagement Commission, formed to involve more citizens in the governmental process as district elections loom in 2022. The four-year term was approved for the ballot 4-1.

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