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Sales tax revenue is increasing but poverty remains an issue for City of Santa Maria

Sales tax revenue is increasing but poverty remians an issue for City of Santa Maria
Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 21:42:11-04

Santa Maria saw a more than $1 million increase in sales revenue this past fiscal year.

The city's latest financial report was just released and while Santa Maria's sales tax revenue is up, other tax revenue streams saw a decline.

The City of Santa Maria is seeing new revenue streams thanks in part to the success of businesses in Enos Ranch.

A little more than a year after their doors opened at Enos Ranch, Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab says they're doing more business at this location than when they were operating in Old Town Orcutt.

"We've done really well in this parlor. It's done about double what our Orcutt parlor was doing, which is what we hoped for because we have so much walk-by traffic here. This is such a great shopping center and the parking's easy," explained Molly Kasdan, Promotions and Event Manager for Doc Burnstein's.

Sales like these have helped the city see a 7.4 percent, or over $1.6 million, increase in sales tax revenue.

Hotels, however, saw a 3.5 percent decline in revenue.

Radisson General Manager Jean-Luc Garon says that's due in part to evacuees and first responders needing a place to stay as well as new hotels opening in neighboring communities.

"There's a lot more competition but I'm also hoping that people see us a destination, especially in Santa Maria as a place to come," Garon said.

Santa Maria is also still grappling with a high poverty rate, which the city's financial report argues contributes to economic challenges.

The Santa Barbara County Foodbank says it has served 13,000 more people in Santa Maria in just the last year, making up 49 percent of their food distribution for the county.

"A lot of people have to afford housing before food so that is something that we really try to focus in on and a part of food insecurity is all the other demands and resources that they have to use in order to survive," explained Paul Wilkins, Director of Operations at the Santa Barbara County Foodbank Warehouse.

Some in the community are now looking for the city to bring in more high paying jobs, but the Chamber of Commerce says it's not that easy.

"I think if you're bringing in jobs to the community, you have to look at the overall picture and that is, do we have the education, do we have the workforce and the labor workforce that we need to accommodate those types of companies coming in?" said Suzanne Singh, Economic Development Director of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Several businesses have expanded to Santa Maria recently, including CoastHills Credit Union, which hopes their new corporate headquarters will be open this fall.