The garden of the Upham Hotel. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

As Covid continues taking bites out of the regional economy, the City of Santa Barbara reported this week that its sales and hotel tax revenues are down. Both money streams are major contributors to the General Fund. 

The latest numbers show the city took in $5.9 million in sales tax during the fiscal quarter that ended September 30, a seven percent drop from the year before. The sales tax budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is $22.2 million, but finance department staff are projecting revenues to not exceed $20.5 million. Figures for the quarter ending in December will be available in February 2021.

The city collected $1.5 million in hotel bed taxes ― i.e. transient occupancy taxes (TOT) ― for October 2020, 17.5 percent under the same time last year. Staff predict TOT revenue to end the fiscal year at approximately $16.7 million, or around three percent less than originally budgeted.

While the numbers are still significantly below average, they are much improved compared to last spring when the pandemic struck and Santa Barbara’s economy went into a deep freeze. Sales tax revenue, for instance, had dropped 27.5 percent during the March quarter while TOT revenues plummeted 93.3 percent in April. Both funding sources have since steadily started clawing their way back up.

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