Hector Sanchez Castaneda
Isla Vista residents and community members gathered on Sat., Feb. 21 for the second of three IV self-governance town hall meetings at Anisq’Oyo’ Park. The objective of the meeting was to brainstorm ideas of how the community services district (CSD)—whose creation is proposed in Assemblyman Das Williams’s Assembly Bill 3—would fund its services, were it to be created.
According to Williams, one of the benefits of creating a CSD is the provision of more services owing to the ability to levy taxes on the residents of IV. Williams mentioned how there have been past proposals to increase services in the county, but that they have never been liable because it would mean increasing taxes on every city within the county.
“The advantage [of having a CSD] would be—if Isla Vistians reach some kind of consensus on what would be the most fair way to pay for the services that they want—you guys can decide as a community instead of having to worry about what people in Orcutt or people in New Cuyama would say about those taxes,” Williams said.
Williams described five types of taxes that the CSD could possibly implement to fund services: parcel tax, transient occupancy tax, sales tax, utility user tax, and benefit assessments. Attendees were then directed to groups to discuss how they would implement the taxes. It was explained in the groups that these taxes are considered special taxes, meaning that they may only be applied to a specific purpose. In other words, if a sales tax were to be placed on soda, any revenue the tax generates would go directly to a service such as parking maintenance or land use management, instead of just going to a general pool of tax revenue.
The parcel tax is a flat tax that is issued on certain “parcels” of land, meaning that the tax amount does not vary in relation to the value of the land or the amount of residents in the property.
A transient occupancy tax affects every hotel, motel, and individual rental operator in IV. People that stay in any of these facilities for a period of thirty days or less are subject to this tax. An issue that Williams brought up was the lack of a hotel or motel in the city of IV, but it was later noted that this tax could apply to summer camps that stay in Tropicana Gardens.
If a sales tax were to be implemented, it could not exceed 1 percent, and it could only apply to a specific area. For example, a constant proposal that kept coming up in the meeting was a sales tax on alcohol. Sales taxes are not limited to only one good; they can be placed on numerous kinds of products.
The utility user tax would affect every resident of IV. It is a tax on utility services like electricity, water, and cable television. It is also considered a regressive tax, which means that it is applied uniformly and is not based on income.
The final tax discussed was the benefit assessment. This tax is only applied to individuals that would benefit directly from the changes implemented by the tax. An example that came up was a benefit assessment tax on houses located in Del Playa Street. If work against erosion were to be implemented, since those houses would directly benefit, they would be taxed.
Another topic of interest was the CSD’s role in the management and structure of the current entities that provide services to IV. Williams noted that the absorption of some districts would not be feasible due to their size. However, a major point of discussion that arose was if the CSD should or should not absorb the Isla Vista Recreation & Parks District.
Formed in 1972, the IVRPD is the only form of self-governance that IV has, and many had worries that the CSD would disrupt the successful work that the IVRPD has accomplished. This meeting was aimed to form ideas and get a general consensus of what the people want, but there were worries that the community’s full voice was not present.
Fourth-year biochemistry major Alexander Maitan expressed his worry at the lack of people at the town hall meeting.
“I admit I was a little disappointed at the turnout,” Maitan said. “Although the turnout was pretty good, I was hoping for a much larger thing because this was in the middle of the day, it was fairly local, and it was in a central location in IV. This is quite a transitional time in the history of the community… This is a point in history that can pave the path for the future so I really hope more of the community can come out [next time].”
The next town hall meeting will be held on Thursday, March 5, at 7 PM at St. Michaels’s University Church in IV.