In Santa Barbara County, an unusually broad coalition is backing Measure S, a public safety initiative that would at last give the Santa Maria Valley a viable way to lock up criminals.
There is no doubt that Measure S has a hefty price tag. It would increase the sales tax by half a cent for 14 years in order to raise $30 million a year to support the new jail complex, provide funds to put more cops on the streets and fund alternative ways to work with criminals.
But that hefty price tag includes a major kicker: By funding the jail now with local taxpayer dollars, Santa Barbara County would be eligible to tap $56 million in state funding to help offset construction costs.
Building the complex in North County was a key plank in Sheriff Bill Brown’s successful candidacy and it helped propel his upset win in the general election. His prison plan, which has received the backing of the entire Board of Supervisors and the mayors of both Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, comes in the wake of Grand Jury reports warning of badly overcrowded conditions at current facilities and the need for more public safety spending.
Santa Barbara County voters are a skeptical lot, and with Halloween approaching, the thought of paying 9.25 percent sales tax through 2024 is as frightening as a visit from Freddy Krueger.
But Santa Barbara County voters have a history of stepping up in times of economic difficulty to fund needed infrastructure improvements. We’ll stand with other civic leaders and business leaders and support Measure S.