Local News

Jul 6, 2010 10:12 PM by Ariel Wesler

County leaders closer to approving new sales tax

A new half percent sales tax in Santa Barbara County could be on your ballot in November.

The Board of Supervisors approved the first reading of the tax this morning with a four to zero vote. It would generate $30 million annually for the county. That money would go toward building a new 304-bed jail in the north county and help relieve overcrowding.

A proposed half percent sales tax is getting a lot of attention in Santa Barbara County.

"For the protection of themselves and their children and the community, yes, I think it's important enough," said Geri Hughes of Santa Maria.

The money would help fund a new 304-bed jail in the north county and help relieve overcrowding and early releases of prisoners at the main facility in Goleta.

"You gotta have a place for them, other than sleeping on the floor," said Richard Martin of Santa Maria.

Santa Barbara County has had problems with overcrowding in it jails since the 1980s. in fact, it consistently operates at 120 percent of capacity. The industry standard is about 85 percent.

Additional money would also go directly to cities annually to strengthen fire and police services. Santa Maria would get the most at around $1.6 million. Santa Barbara around $1.5 million. Lompoc about $745,000 and Guadalupe would receive close to $113,000.

"The sales tax makes it even for everybody, not just property owners are going to subsidize it or raise money for it. You know, everybody contributes," Martin said.


And voters would still be paying less county sales tax than they are now. A special one percent sales tax in California is set to expire at the same time this 1/2 percent measure would go into effect.

Neither the city of Santa Maria nor the police department has taken a stance on the issue. The sheriff's department also expects some of the sales tax to come from tourists. If approved, the tax would take effect July 1, 2011 and would apply for 14 years.

County leaders still have to approve the measure during a second reading next week. If they give it the green light, it will go before voters on the November ballot.

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