A measure proposing the increase of fees on property sales worth more than $5 million will appear on November ballots after a unanimous vote by Santa Monica City Council this week.
“This revenue measure, which has a limited impact on our community members, will help the city preserve its ability to provide essential services in the face of severe challenges to our existing revenues,” Finance Department Director Gigi Decavalles-Hughes said during Tuesday’s 8-hour meeting, which also featured discussions on the Plaza at Santa Monica project.
“Over the last several months we’ve come before the council many times to present the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Decavalles-Hughes said. And even with the recent cuts affecting libraries, youth programs and other city services, the city still doesn’t have the ability to continue ongoing funding to important programs like those that have proven to address problems like homelessness and other issues affecting the city’s various communities.
But the revenue measure proposed by staff Tuesday night is expected to not only help the city meet the revenue challenges that are anticipated to occur over the next few years, “as our economy recovers,” Decavalles-Hughes said, it will also allow the city to take steps to diversify its revenue stream, which is an action staff deems necessary.
If passed by voters in November, the measure would increase fees to $6 per thousand on the sale price, according to Decavalles-Hughes, who said the proposal would only affect property sales worth more than $5 million, which make up about 10 percent of all parcels sold in the city per year.
That 10 percent is responsible for 65 percent of the city’s transfer tax revenue though, and staff believes the revenue generated from the proposal — $3 million if it were to take effect — would double in the next five years as the economy recovers.
“Initial community feedback regarding this measure has been positive,” Decavalles-Hughes said Tuesday. “We surveyed a representative sample of Santa Monica voters in late May, in both English and Spanish, to gauge their interest in a revenue measure as well as how they would prefer the funds be spent if the measure passed.”
The level of local support was comparable to previous measures that were approved by Santa Monica voters, and respondents noted it was important that the revenue be used on programs that prevent homelessness, spur economic recovery, clean public spaces, or address matters relating to the youth, mental health programs or food and housing security.
Mayor McKeown mentioned a recent study conducted by UCLA before asking if the proposed ballot measure corresponds to the recommendations in the report. Shortly after reassurance from Decavalles-Hughes, the council voted unanimously to place the tax revenue measure on the ballot, and McKeon agreed to write an argument in favor of the measure.
To read a complete description of the ballot language, residents can visit https://bit.ly/2DpTBeM.