Hector Sanchez Castaneda
Isla Vista Beat Reporter
As the new year settles in, Isla Vista Stakeholders are shifting the tone of their weekly meetings into battle mode. On Apr. 7, citizens will face the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and present how they want the Community Services District (CSD) ballot measure to look like this upcoming November. LAFCO will make the final decision on what services the CSD will initially provide.
Stakeholders have reached a consensus that all eight powers the CSD can exert, as outlined by Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3), should be included in the ballot. The powers are as follows: forming a municipal advisory council (MAC), tenant mediation program, area planning commission (APC), parking district, contracting additional policing services, controlling community facilities, maintaining aesthetic infrastructure and abating graffiti.
Stakeholders are expected to argue in favor of including all the powers in the ballot and for an eight percent utility users tax (UUT) that would bring in a yearly revenue of $512,000. Over half of this — $257,000 — would be used for administrative costs, leaving $204,000 to use for the actual services the CSD would be providing.
A total of $162,000 — roughly one-third of the total projected tax revenue — would go to paying the salary of a general manager for the CSD. During a weekly meeting on Feb. 2, some stakeholders shared their hesitation toward the large salary, stating that they feel LAFCO may see it as a point of contention.
“I’m not sure that that’s the amount that’s required to get someone to fill the responsibilities of the general manager of the IVCSD,” University of California, Santa Barbara economics professor Lanny Ebenstein said. “I think the $162,000 figure given the $512,000 budget is high … If you advertise the position of general manager of the IVCSD at $100,000, I think you would have a hundred applicants. I don’t believe you have to offer $162,000 to get the best person for that position.”
Stakeholders have been basing their calculations according to the financial study taken last year by Economics & Planning Systems, Inc. (EPS). The study’s administrative costs would include the general manager and a part-time clerical worker, as well as office space and equipment.
“I don’t know who says this, but they say that districts like this would be very hard to manage and you’d want someone with … skills to manage it right,” Santa Barbara City College trustee and UCSB alumnus Jonathan Abboud said. “If we get someone cheap and they do a bad job then everything else fails. So this is a good investment to make sure things are working.”
The CSD’s policing power would include hiring a half-time non-sworn coordinator, and implementing six four-hour shifts of community patrolling throughout the week, for a total of 24 hours of patrol per week. The CSD would be able to contract alongside the sheriff’s office and hire cadets with ticketing powers to patrol IV. It was also pointed out that cadets would not be allowed to carry weapons or to make arrests. The price of this power is estimated at $75,000.
Darcel Elliott, district director for the office of Assemblymember Das Williams, said that the idea of expanding UCSB’s Community Service Officer (CSO) program had been discussed, but that the university had been resistant to do so.
Discussion on UCSB buying up IV property also came up during the meeting. UCSB is currently in talks to buy 910 Embarcadero, and concerns that the University could buy a property at any time and convert it into tax-exempt land made some think that the CSD’s revenue could be impacted. However, it was pointed out that UCSB has pledged an annual $200,000 contribution for “mutually-agreed upon projects.”
Weekly meetings leading up to the Apr. 7 hearing have been scheduled. They aim to flesh out the costs and specifics of the powers that will be presented to LAFCO.
Below is a draft of the current budget proposal to finance the eight powers of the CSD.