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Sales tax increase goes into effect in Santa Maria

Posted at 5:50 PM, Apr 01, 2019

Measure U, Santa Maria’s sales tax increase, is in effect as of Monday, April 1, 2019.

For every $100 spent by someone in Santa Maria, $1 will go to emergency services.

It was a relief for many in the public safety field when Measure U was passed again in November. Both Santa Maria’s police and fire departments were facing potential cuts to staffing if the funding went away.

“It’s tough times out there in law enforcement in a lot of places and we are enjoying right now the kind of support everyone wants and you wish for in a community and I think we’re earning it,” said Santa Maria Police Chief Phillip Hansen.

Now the city’s emergency services get to plan on what to do with the new Measure U funds.

Santa Maria’s sales tax will be increasing from 8 percent to 8.75 percent, generating about $18 million a year and adding more personnel to city staff.

“For the first fiscal year beginning July 1, (we presented) a proposal for Measure U expenditures for the police department that would fund 10 police officer items, two public safety dispatchers, one property and evidence clerk, and one professional staff investigative aid for the detective bureau,” Chief Hansen explained.

Hansen says they hope to create a property crimes unit and also dive deeper into combating human trafficking.

The Santa Maria Fire Department plans on ordering three new fire engines to replace older engines, as well as adding more staff and creating a new training facility.

“As far as staffing, you’ll notice there is a additional request for a response unit out of our main fire station, Station 1, that address the 10,000 calls we’re running right now. Currently, that’s about 30 calls a day and as you well know, the incidents are continuing to rise,” explained Chief Leonard Champion, Santa Maria Fire Department.

While police and fire get 90 percent of the Measure U funds, youth services also get some of the money.

The Recreation and Parks Department is looking into creating a transportation system to take kids and teens to different programs.

“The crime rate may be less than it was but the urgency for youth is always there. The term “at-risk youth” – in my estimations, every youth is at risk for something, so it’s important for us to offer some alternatives,” said Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada.

All of these departments plan on pitching their final funding goals when the city council begins their budget discussions in June.

Chief Hansen says the new officers could be starting next year.

Unlike the last Measure U, this increase does not have a sunset date, meaning in order for it to end, voters would have to repeal it.