With Election Day fast approaching, property owners are growing wary of a new tax which they believe would create an unfair burden on an already difficult housing market.
If approved, Measure F will impose a utility user tax (UUT) on residents for the use of water, gas, sewer, electricity and garbage. The fee will be used to partially fund a Community Services District (CSD) in Isla Vista to improve infrastructure, provide tenant-landlord mediation and institute community policing, among other services.
According to Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3), the legislation outlining the Isla Vista CSD, the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) sets the rate at which the CSD may levy its UUT. LAFCO approved an eighth percent UUT in April.
Along with several other I.V. stakeholders, Chuck Eckert, an Isla Vista property provider, assembled Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes in September to build opposition toward the measure to approve the UUT, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
One of Eckert’s main objections to the measure, he said, is its potential to increase the cost of living for I.V. renters. Not only will renters have to pay the taxes for their own utilities, he said, but any tax paid by landlords will be added to renting costs.
Eckert said he and many other I.V. property providers oppose higher rent because such price hikes will make their units less “attractive,” prompting renters to look elsewhere for housing.
In a radio show with KCSB 91.9 FM in August, Yes on E&F campaign organizer Jonathan Abboud said each person will pay between $5 to $10 per month for the UUT — “about half a Freebirds burrito once a month.”
Although unable to provide numbers during an interview with the Nexus, Eckert said he anticipates much higher costs as a result of a UUT.
“It’s certainly going to be more than half a burrito,” he said.
Eckert said the CSD will be ineffective in providing services to Isla Vista residents. Half of the funds raised by the tax will fund “bureaucracy,” he said.
Citing a financial feasibility study organized by The Fund for Santa Barbara in Sept. 2015, Eckert said there will be an annual $512,000 revenue from the UUT. About half of that amount, $257,000, will go toward management and administration of the CSD, leaving $255,000 for other services.
This, however, is not the only proposed means of funding CSD services. UC Santa Barbara has pledged an annual $200,000 to the CSD for seven years.
Eckert also disapproves of Measure F because he finds it to be unfair; UCSB can have representation in the CSD board of directors despite not paying the UUT. According to AB 3, UCSB shall appoint one member to the CSD board of directors, yet, as the financial feasibility study reports, all utility consumption on UCSB land would be exempt from a new UUT.
Despite starting a campaign against Measure F, Eckert has not come out in opposition to Measure E, the ballot measure to create the CSD in Isla Vista. As he put it, “one could be neutral on Measure E and still oppose Measure F.”
But according to Darcel Elliott, the campaign manager for Yes on E&F, opposition to Measure F is still opposition to Measure E. Disapproving of the means to fund the CSD, she said, will not allow the CSD to provide all of its enumerated functions.
“You can’t have E without F,” she said.
One might say that the fate of the CSD ultimately rests on the approval of a UUT at some point. AB 3 enumerates that, if voters do not approve the UUT before Jan. 1, 2023, the CSD shall be dissolved as of that date.
A version of this story appeared on p. 1 of the Thursday, Oct. 13, edition of the Daily Nexus.