Guadalupe Public Safety Director Gary Hoving and his fellow campaigners are trying to build support for three measures on the Nov. 4 ballot that could inch the city's budget into the black and perhaps help maintain cityhood.
Hoving leads the charge to woo voters as he and others go door-to-door, explaining what they see as the benefits of Measures V, W and X, which could mean more than $300,000 in additional annual revenue for the city.
City employees can only work on such issues after hours and off the city's clock, but their jobs are at risk as Guadalupe stares down a budget deficit of nearly $335,000.
But the success or failure of those measures could be up to a small collection of locals after only 436 of Guadalupe's 7,225 residents cast a ballot in the June 3 primary.
"It narrows down the amount of energy needed to get the word out to those who go to the ballot," Hoving said.
The current deficit threatens both Guadalupe's independence and its local fire and law enforcement services.
Without new revenue, Guadalupe could be the first California city since the 1970s to disincorporate.
"All of the police and fire personnel would be laid off, and services would revert back to the County of Santa Barbara," Hoving said.
Little is known outside of that progression.
"We've certainly been watching this as it's progressed and made some initial plans relating to this," said Lt. Craig Bonner with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department. "As far as I know, we have not made any concrete plans. We're looking at calls for services and trying to determine what would need to be provided to serve the area."
Mayor Frances Romero and her colleagues on the Guadalupe City Council want to keep services local and authored the arguments in favor of the three proposed tax increases.
Measure X, The Guadalupe Public Service Preservation Sales Tax Measure, would increase the city's sales tax from 8 percent to 8.25 percent.
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If approved by a majority of voters, that change could bring in an additional $65,000 a year for the city. As it stands, about 1 percent of sales tax income stays in Guadalupe, and the rest is divided between the state and county.
While Romero has publicly noted the new income's importance, she doesn't believe that Guadalupe voters have approved a tax increase in nearly two decades.
"It all comes down to the fact that there are only so many hours in the day," said Romero earlier in the election season. "It's going to take an overall effort in the community from people who believe the city should exist."
Some residents and even employees on their free time have stepped up to spread the word about these proposed changes.
"The city may have to disincorporate," wrote the city council in its argument in support of Measure V, The Guadalupe Vital Public Service Protection Measure. "That means the county will take control. Decisions will be made by the Board of Supervisors in Santa Barbara, not by your elected city council in Guadalupe. We will be last in line."
Measure V would erase the $2,250 cap on the annual utility users tax. The increase would solely pertain to those who use more than $45,000 in utilities during the year, including water, electricity, telephone and natural gas. It could also mean another $100,000 a year for the city.
The City Council made similar arguments in favor of Measure W, which would increase the business license rate.
The Guadalupe Public Service Preservation Business Tax Certificate Measure would boost the license rate to 50 cents on every $1,000 in sales.
That would cost business owners $250 a year for every $500,000 they bring in and is estimated to be another $150,000 for Guadalupe in annual revenue.
The new rate would replace the license fees that have been in place for 35 years. Currently, owners pay either $60, $90 or $120 a year for a license, depending on their type of business.
"We have our literature prepared, and we're going door-to-door to campaign," Hoving said. "We have a list of registered voters, and we'll try to talk to them."