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Santa Maria Mayor Alice M. Patino

Mayor Alice M. Patino

Santa Maria voters sent a clear and strong message about their priorities and willingness to fund local municipal services and quality-of-life programs. Measure U was approved by an impressive 72.33 percent.

Voters extended and increased this sales tax from a quarter-cent to the one-cent rate. We are grateful for your support and confidence in the work done by your city employees, and we will continue to earn your trust.

You will start seeing results next summer after Measure U takes effect on April 1, 2019. That is the date when Santa Maria retailers will begin collecting the one-cent tax and reporting proceeds to the state. The state takes a few months to disperse the funds to the city government. The anticipated new revenue will be available for the city’s 2019-20 budget beginning July 1. Until then, the budget adopted by the City Council remains in effect through next June 30.

Measure U will bring in an estimated $18 million annually. Visitors also will pay, helping support Santa Maria’s local services. Considering Santa Maria’s proven history of budgetary accountability in general — and for Measure U, specifically with a citizens’ oversight committee — residents can look forward to the same responsible spending, with a significant boost for police, fire and other public services.

Now that voters have spoken, staff is preparing a Measure U spending plan to bring forward to the City Council and public next February.

January through June of this year the city did extensive background research before proposing the new measure. Staff reached out to the community and conducted a survey to gain feedback from residents. We asked the public what services and programs it wants and prioritizes, including an open-ended question about what is important to you.

And 71 percent of respondents identified an increase in police officers for crime prevention and gang suppression as a top priority. Most people also indicated staffing fire stations with the appropriate amount of firefighters, maintaining 9-1-1 response times, retaining youth services, and providing safe space for teens as priorities.

Your City Council responded with a ballot measure that matched that feedback, and the volunteer campaign team effectively communicated that message to voters. The ballot results of 72 percent in favor closely mirrored the survey results, which is reassuring.

Measure U passed because for the past six years the city has kept its word and used the revenue stream from a measure voters approved in U2012 exactly as it said it would. The city did not disappoint taxpayers, spending about 90 percent of revenue directly on public safety, police and fire in particular. Ten percent of the city’s sworn police officers and 20 percent of Santa Maria’s fire stations are funded through the measure. It also funds code compliance, graffiti abatement and park rangers.

The city’s overall sales tax rate will increase from 8 percent to 8.75 percent. This remains a rate lower than most people in California pay, and also will not be the highest sales tax in the county.

I want to thank those who stepped up to work many volunteer hours campaigning through the “Yes on U 2018 — Protect Santa Maria committee”: Glenn Morris, Rick Haydon, Mark van de Kamp, Russ Mengel, Leonard Champion, Phil Hansen and Jason Stilwell. I also very much appreciate all those who endorsed the campaign, and am proud of the businesses that donated financially. You worked together in the best interest of our community.

The 72.33-percent voter support was a higher level than all but four of 50 other cities with similar local sales tax measures on the November ballot. Also, it surpassed the 63.95 percent support in June 2012 when the previous Measure U was introduced.

Again, Santa Maria voters, thank you for your support. Our top priority must and will remain keeping our neighborhoods safe and our economy thriving.

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Alice M. Patino is mayor of Santa Maria.