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Santa Barbara County, CA November 6, 2001 Election
Smart Voter

Goleta Cityhood

By Margaret Connell

Candidate for Member of City Council; Proposed City of Goleta

This information is provided by the candidate
The proposed city of Goleta has been shown to be fiscally sound without the need for growth or new taxes
The Time for a City of Goleta is Now!

As the vote on Goleta cityhood approaches, opponents are trolling for any reason they can come up with for voting against Measure H.

Let us be clear. The reason behind their opposition is not their fear that the city may fail, but because they want a city with different boundaries, whether through annexation to Santa Barbara, inclusion of east Goleta or inclusion of Isla Vista/UCSB. They have a perfect right to express these opinions but much of their reasoning will not stand up.

They say that the proposed city of Goleta is too small. But with a population of close to 30,000, it will be twice the size of the city of Carpinteria, and much larger than Solvang, Guadalupe or Buellton. It will be a medium sized California city. Eastern Goleta has made it abundantly clear in past elections that it does not want to be part of a city of Goleta. But because this area would rather be associated with Santa Barbara is no reason to deny cityhood to the west end of the valley which showed, through 4,800 signatures on the incorporation petition, that it did want to become a city.

Will this be just another layer of government? Has anyone heard the citizens of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Buellton or Solvang complain that their city councils are just "another layer of government" and that they would rather be served solely by the County Board of Supervisors? They may want to change their elected representatives from time to time, but they certainly don't want to lose the right to elect a council of their neighbors, responsive and accountable to them.

That is what the citizens of Goleta want too. They want decisions about planning, growth, public safety, roads, open space and the environment to be made by a council elected by those most affected by these decisions. The most pressing land use issues in the Goleta Valley lie within the proposed city boundaries. Goleta needs self-government now.

A more serious assault is being made on the fiscal viability of the proposed city. Here is the true situation. A reputable consulting firm, Economic Planning Systems (EPS), with many years of expertise conducting similar studies of new incorporations, performed a state required, in-depth comprehensive fiscal analysis of the proposal before the voters. It concluded that the new city would have sufficient revenues to maintain the current level of municipal services, pay the county for county-wide services and build a reasonable reserve, without the need for new or increased taxes. This was found to be true even if population growth was reduced to less than 1% and commercial development was half what is projected in the report. The consultant stated clearly that his projections were conservative, with revenue estimates low and expenditure estimates high.

Recent criticisms of its conclusions by Mark Schniepp, of the California Economic Forecast, could easily have been dispelled if he had called the Executive Director of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and Walter Kieser of EPS. Incorporation law is not his area of expertise and his analysis contained many misunderstandings.

State law mandates that new cities compensate counties for revenues lost from incorporations. If revenues lost to the county are greater than the cost of services transferred to the city, the new city and county are required to work out a "revenue neutrality" agreement that restores the balance. For Goleta, these payments amount to about $5.5 million a year for the first 10 years and about half that amount after that.

Opponents call this "ransom" money and multiply the annual payment of $5.5 by 10 to make a formidable sounding total of $55 million over ten years. This inflated rhetoric is designed to scare, not inform.

In fact the agreement has two parts. The first payment is for about $3.3 million a year and is the city's contribution for county wide services, such as the courts, district attorney, public defender, public health, county records such as births, deaths and marriages and many other services that counties provide but cities do not. These payments will be ongoing and all cities make similar payments to counties for these services. The city of Santa Barbara's payment to the county, for example, is $13 million in property taxes each year.

The second part of Goleta's payment, for 10 years only, is to mitigate lost revenues which are currently used for municipal services outside of the Goleta area. At the end of 10 years, these revenues of approximately $2.5 million a year will revert to the city for the benefit of the people of Goleta.

The beauty of GoletaNow!'s agreement with the county is that these payments are based on a percentage of the property tax, sales tax and bed tax, rather than fixed amounts, so if there is a down turn in the economy, the city's payments go down and the county shares the risk. Goleta is the only new city that has negotiated a revenue neutrality agreement with this favorable provision. Dr. Schniepp ignored this factor in his analysis and apparently did not understand that payments to the county were legally required under revenue neutrality law.

We are confident that Goleta can prosper and plan its future free from financial pressures to grow or increase taxes. The city does not depend on any one project, such as the Page Hotel for its financial future. Its economy is diverse, with a number of new developments underway that were not included in the fiscal analysis.

In addition, a city of Goleta will add another south county voice to regional bodies such as the Santa Barbara County Area Government and the Air Pollution Control District. Currently these are weighted toward north county, which has five city seats, while south county has only two. A city of Goleta will enhance our ability to address regional planning concerns. .

Without a new city, all Goleta revenues and planning decisions will remain with the county. We need a city of Goleta NOW! The time is right. Vote "Yes" on Measure H.

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