Goleta Mayor Urges ‘Vision to Address Opportunities’ in State of City Speech

Mayor Paula Perotte asserted Tuesday that the city of Goleta needs to embrace a “vision to address the opportunities and threats that loom in the near future.”

Her comment came during the Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City address at a luncheon at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Goleta.

About 400 government and business leaders and others gathered to hear about the city’s many achievements and challenges, plus the latest on Goleta’s finances and policy decisions.

Officials also briefed the group on updates to the city’s zoning ordinances, Old Town Goleta renovations, cannabis regulation, Fire Station 10, a new multi-modal train station at the location of the existing Amtrak platform, and parks and recreation projects.

Later in her speech, Perotte said the city’s vision must expect change to secure a brighter future.

“Now, is the time for us to look forward and plan our city so it looks like the Goleta we want,” she told the crowd.

Perotte laid out four principals she believes should guide the city’s “vision and action, not just to keep Goleta the Goodland, but to move us forward to make Goleta a Greatland.”

The city’s vision should start with being people-oriented, she said, adding that “every city has buildings, roads, parks, jobs, and the biggest variable is people — our skills, culture, ambition and how we interact with people.”

People are the most valuable asset, Perotte said.

Then she asked the crowd a question: “How do we make sure we attract the best people, and make us the most productive and reduce people moving away, so we don’t suffer a constant brain drain?”

She suggested attracting individuals of different ages and backgrounds to Goleta’s “premier” quality of life.

“We have great libraries and schools, diligent environmental protections, expanding recreational opportunities, good roads, solid police and fire services, and more,” Perotte said.

Perotte called for providing and nurturing “incubators to produce start-ups,” and doing the best to increase the affordability of housing and commercial space.

Goleta needs to be pursuing and achieving public trust and resident participation to “make the best ideas and commitment to our common goals,” she said.

The city is committed to being “user-friendly,” Perotte said, adding that she defines “user” as “every Goleta resident, business, nonprofit and visitor.”

The mayor urged the community to embrace the public’s contribution and participation in government.

“Open meetings, open process and communications such as we have been doing in our zoning ordinance, with numerous workshops and hearings supported by detailed documentation and significant opportunities for public comment,” she said.

She described a vision that fosters partnerships with nonprofits and business groups, and interacts regionally with nearby cities, Santa Barbara County, UC Santa Barbara, state and federal officials — especially in the “critical areas” of roads, traffic, water, energy, emergency planning, public safety and other services.

“Local governments cannot and should not try to fund it all and do it all,” Perotte said.

Goleta needs to “achieve and assure” sustainability, she said. But at the very least, she’d like to protect the environment.

“As we plan for water, transportation, housing and all resources and services that are vital for a vibrant community, we must not upset the delicate balance that defines our community’s special character and quality of life,” Perotte said.

In her overview of Goleta’s financial outlook, City Manager Michelle Greene said the city’s financial outlook “remains positive” because over the past 17 years its revenue base has increased steadily, and it has allowed the city to meet the needs of the community and to establish a healthy reserve fund.

“Ensuring that the city has the resources to meet its obligations is critical,” Greene said. “To do this, we look at past revenue trends, reserve funds and other economic indicators to forecast the city’s fiscal health.”

According to Greene, the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT), or bed tax, sales tax and property taxes make up 85 percent of Goleta’s total revenue. TOT generated about $10.1 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year and was projected to generate more than $9.8 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to Greene.

Greene said sales tax is expected to increase, producing $6.4 million last year to a projected $6.6 million by the end of the current fiscal year.

“But, despite this growth in sales tax, the city remains conservative in its outlook for future years — as I think we all do — and project sales tax to maintain current levels, with some minor fluctuations,” Greene said.

Goleta is seeing some impacts on traditional brick-and-mortar retail, with the closure of Kmart and Orchard Supply Hardware stores, she said.

“We are confident that new stores… will keep sales tax on track,” Greene said.

She said property tax is expected to increase slightly this year, rising to about $6.5 million.

The city’s budget is structurally balanced, Greene said, adding that the projected expenditures are at $32 million this year.

Goleta’s general fund is expected to end the fiscal year with an unobligated fund balance of more than $3.8 million, according to Greene.

Among other positive numbers, she said, the unemployment rate in the city is at 2.3 percent.

“Our unemployment rate is lower than most cities in the county, so we are doubly blessed,” she said.

The commercial vacancy rates in Goleta are 6.2% for office space, 2.1% for retail and 5.9% for industrial space, Greene said.

“The State of the City is optimistic,” Greene said. “Our City Council and staff are closely monitoring revenues, expenditures and critical economic indicators. Our financial forecast looks positive.”

The event will be broadcast on Channel 19. Visit www.CityofGoleta.org for specific times.

— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Jennifer Newell

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