City of Solvang leaders are asking voters to approve Measure U, a one-cent increase in sales and use tax to help support maintenance of city programs and services as well as repair roads, flammable brush removal, 9-1-1 emergency response, neighborhood police patrols and recreational programs.
“The good news is that this is not a tax on food or prescription drugs. That’s exactly how it’s written. So it won’t affect food and prescription drug prices, which is a big deal for all of our food insecure residents or seniors who often have more prescription drugs,” the mayor said. Charlie Uhrig.
On June 13, city council members unanimously approved the resolution to place the item on the ballot.
According to the council-approved resolution that sets out the ballot measure, “this measure will provide Solvang with local control over local funds for local needs to benefit the Solvang community.”
The resolution also notes that “tourists pay two-thirds of the sales tax, ensuring that tourists continue to pay their fair share for city services.”
The measure requires the city to establish an independent citizen oversight committee, financial audits and annual reports to the community to ensure that all funds are spent as promised.
“The good news is this: There is a Citizens’ Oversight Committee to help determine how to prioritize these expenses and then bring them to council for review and approval,” Uhrig said.
The city estimates the tax increase could bring in $1.6 million a year “that cannot be levied by the state,” according to the resolution.
Uhrig said he could see the fund having an immediate impact on residents and visitors with projects such as repairing the sidewalk damaged by oak roots in Solvang Park.
“Repairing sidewalks is essential, especially around Solvang Park where so many people walk, which is so heavily used. It needs to be fixed as soon as possible, but we don’t have the funds for it. This (tax measure) would help increase that and make it work as soon as possible,” Uhrig said.
He also mentioned the sidewalks along Mission between Eucalyptus and Fifth streets. The city recently completed resurfacing the sidewalks on the south side of the street.
“It would be great if, working with the owners, we could eventually connect this sidewalk directly to Solvang School,” Uhrig said.
Additionally, the funds could be used to help cover city operating costs.
“We have significant expenses that are still to come,” Uhrig said.
He noted in particular the ongoing contract negotiations for law enforcement services provided to the city by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
There is no expiration date for the proposed sales tax, although voters can, at any future date, vote to overturn the measure if it passes.
The city’s election site does not list any opposition to the measure.