The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved Measure S for the upcoming election, which would increase the county’s sales tax by .5 percent in order to fund the building of a new jail and up the amount of cops on the street.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. proposed the measure to finance the construction of a new jail facility, create programs to lower recidivism rates and protect the jobs of frontline law enforcement. Should it pass, the proposed sales tax would be enacted on Jan. 1 and stay in effect for the next 14 years.
According to 3rd District County Supervisor Doreen Farr, the tax’s time limit will secure construction funds while ensuring the development of other long-term plans.
“It will give us enough time to find a way to sustain it,” Farr said. “We can go back to the voters and see if they want to do it again.”
The proposed jail facility, to be named North County Jail, will contain 304 beds and provide relief for the overcrowded Santa Barbara County Jail. Additionally, Sheriff Bill Brown said during a radio appearance on Santa Maria’s AM 1440 that the measure would prevent further budget cuts in integral parts of the department.
“We have lost 43 positions in the Sheriff’s Department while I have been sheriff,” Brown said. “We don’t have anywhere else to cut. We are looking at cutting front-line positions if we cut anymore. Those are not acceptable options.”
Opponents of the measure argue that any additional tax increase, however small, is unfair to taxpayers already paying a substantial amount to the local government.
According to Gregory Gandrud, chairman of the Santa Barbara County Republican Party, the finances should come from better budgeting, not an increase in taxes.
“We do support … the North County Jail and jail construction, but we think that they already pay enough taxes,” Gandrud said. “The county does have enough money already to construct and maintain the new jail.”
Gandrud also said the amount of money the new tax will generate over 14 years is more than will be required for the new jail system.
In spite of the opposition, Brown said this current bill, unlike proposed measures in the past, will acquire only what is necessary from the taxpayers.
“There is no fluff in here. The previous bill suggested would take 40 million a year. This is much smaller,” Brown said.