We’ve seen the city’s latest financial report card, and in a general sense, Santa Maria is in decent shape. The accounting period spans from June of last year to this past May.
Here are some of the highlights:
Sales tax receipts are up about 7.4%, or $1.69 million, compared to the last fiscal year, thanks in large part to the addition of businesses at the Enos Ranch commercial complex.
Property taxes also produced higher revenues compared to the 2017-18 fiscal period. Property tax revenue grew by about $931,300, an increase of 4.9% year-over-year.
Now, for some of the report’s not-so-highlights:
Even as sales tax revenue grew overall, there was a noticeable slowdown in the last six months of the reporting period.
The increase in property tax revenue is not necessarily a good thing, especially for families who are finding it increasingly difficult to score affordable housing within city limits.
There was a sizable drop in the amount of money raised through the hotel/bed tax, about $66,000 less than the previous year, and about $125,000 below what city officials had anticipated. Regional competition may be the primary cause of that fluctuation.
So, the report card turned out to be a mixed bag, and not especially reassuring, given the fact that so many economists are predicting a recession within the next two years. Trump administration officials say the U.S. economy is in fine shape, but they tend to put a smiley face on almost every problem.
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The truly worrisome part of the report card is that Santa Maria continues to lead the region in overall poverty rate, at just under 19% of the local population. By comparison, the statewide average is about 13%.
That tells us the local economy may not be as strong and sustainable as many officials would prefer. And when city leaders start to talk about “economic challenges,” the poverty and affordable housing issues bubble to the surface.
Local organizations are partnering with the city to lure industries and jobs that pay higher wages. Some of those businesses are coming online, which should help with regard to the better-paying-jobs issue.
The jobs/pay element is likely what’s causing the poverty and affordable housing problems, especially in view of the fact that the city has an enviable 4.4% unemployment rate. Lots of Santa Marians are employed, they’re just not bringing home a big-enough paycheck to meet this area’s chronically-high cost of living.
We have been tireless advocates — many might say cheerleaders — for Allan Hancock College, in large part because its degree and skills-training programs generate so many highly-qualified workers for local businesses, industries and the public safety departments. We see the school as the pivot point for growing the local economy.
We also applaud our city leaders, and movers and shakers in the civic organization and commercial sectors for constantly looking to the future, and continuing to beat the bushes to find commerce with higher-paying jobs.
Despite some problems, Santa Maria and the entire region have many great selling points. We have the land. We have outstanding weather, compared to much of the nation. We have great communities full of caring, helpful people. South County may have an abundance of celebrity residents, but we have what the real America is all about.
We’d like to hear from readers about what they like and don’t like about our region. Think of it as a town hall meeting, at which sharing opinions and views of what helps make us better.