Sunday, September 22, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 13th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 2

Santa Maria makes plans for Measure U revenue


Santa Maria plans to use revenue from a recently approved sales tax hike to beef up its police and fire departments, among other enhancements.

Members of the City Council directed staff to use the revenue from Measure U tax hike, approved by voters in November 2018, to add staff to both departments as well as use some of the money to bolster staffing and services for youth programs, the city library, and code enforcement. City staff plan to include the council's directions in a proposed budget for fiscal year 2019-20.

"There's nothing etched in stone. ... It's direction for us to go back and work on the budget," City Manager Jason Stilwell told members of the council at a March 5 meeting.

Some of the $18 million Santa Maria expects to generate from a recently approved sales tax hike will pay for more sworn police officers.

Santa Maria voters previously approved a one-quarter-cent sales tax in 2012, and then approved Measure U in 2018, raising it to 1 cent beginning next month. The 1-cent increase will raise the total sales tax for the city from 8 percent to 8.75 percent. The new sales tax is expected to generate $18 million and must be used to maintain and enhance essential services.

The council's tentative plans are to use $5.45 million of that money to maintain existing services funded under the current sale tax increase, which pays for 10 percent of sworn police staffing, the operation of Fire Station No. 5, extended library hours, code compliance, and other services. Another $6.4 million would pay for existing services that aren't currently funded by the Measure U revenue, and would pay for 60 personnel already working in the police, fire, parks and recreation, and code compliance departments, as well as the library.

The council directed staff to use $6.2 million to fund 30 new positions in the city. The Santa Maria Police Department would use some of that money to hire 14 new personnel, including 10 sworn officers and two dispatchers. Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen said he would use the positions to expand the department's detective bureau and hire additional traffic and patrol officers.

The city's Fire Department would use the money to create a three-person fire response unit and house it at Fire Station No. 1, a move it hopes will improve response times. The council's proposed Measure U spending also includes adding 13 reclassified or new personnel in the Recreation and Parks Department, some of whom will help with the Mayor's Task Force on Youth and Safety programs. Other enhancements would include hiring another code compliance officer and paying for additional staff and expanding Sunday operating hours at the Santa Maria Library.

Lastly, the council also approved setting aside a portion of the Measure U funding in reserve.

"Its not just about continuing to add on [services] but to make sure this is sustainable for the long run, so our residents are then feeling the burden when we are no longer able to provide these services," Councilmember Gloria Soto said.

The Measure U sale tax increase will go into effect citywide on April 1. City staff is expected to deliver a proposed 2019-20 budget to the council in June.

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The U.S. Census is going online for the first time. Is it even possible to get an accurate count?

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