There usually are differing points of view when a local government asks citizens to approve higher taxes on themselves. Still, we haven’t heard much objection to Santa Maria’s Measure U.
Voters will decide Nov. 6 — or sooner, if you’re voting via mail-in ballot — whether to replace the city’s quarter-cent sales tax with one that collects a cent on every taxable $1 transaction within city limits. That’s what approving Measure U would do.
The added tax’s purpose would focus on providing more funding for public safety — that would be police/fire services and programs, and other city services and programs deemed essential by elected officials.
Retired police lieutenant and current City Council member Mike Cordero calls Measure U, “nothing but a good thing for everyone involved in the community.” We agree.
Measure U addresses important issues recent surveys show concern Santa Marians the most. Crime-prevention and gang-suppression efforts, fully-staffed fire stations, and at-risk youth programs are among the programs and services the higher sales tax will help finance.
What could make this tough for citizen voters is we already live in a place where overall tax burdens are among the highest in the nation. But supporting Measure U really should be a no-brainer for Santa Maria residents. City officials have done a good job of being specific about how the tax proceeds will be spent, and there is little wiggle room for spending the tax revenues on things other than what has been named.
As with every sales tax, there are complaints that it’s regressive, thus penalizing mostly low-income consumers. But the reality is that the tax proceeds often benefit lower-income citizens the most, especially with regard to a better police presence in specific neighborhoods, and even more with regard to suppressing gang activities.
When Santa Marians are asked what their greatest concern is, the dominant answer is crime and personal safety. Measure U tax revenues are aimed directly at those issues.
Improving public safety has the collateral effect of polishing the community’s public image, thus encouraging new businesses to locate here, which will improve the local economy.
The chief objection we’ve heard is that Measure U proceeds could be used in unspecified ways, and that is always true, because a community’s needs change with circumstances. Our elected leaders and city staff have proven themselves responsible stewards when it comes to fiscal decisions. Santa Maria is a well-managed city.
All valid reasons to support Measure U, and we recommend a “yes” vote on Nov. 6.
Another major bond measure that affects all of North County — and especially the Santa Maria Valley — is Allan Hancock College’s Measure Y.
If approved, Measure Y will provide $75 million for a range of facilities improvements at the Hancock College campuses and collateral operations in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Solvang.
Hancock officials have identified four major projects to take on if Measure Y gets the required 55-percent voter majority: Construction of a fine arts complex, renovation of the phys ed building, upgrades to the Public Safety Training Complex in Lompoc and additions to the Solvang Festival Theater.
We’ve already weighed in on Measure Y, a couple of times in fact, because we understand the role Hancock College plays in both the social fabric and overall economies of North County communities. The college has a history of spending bond proceeds wisely, and we expect that trend to continue.
Measure Y is a bond proposal that serves the interests of just about everyone in North County. We strongly recommend a “yes” vote.