September 27, 2023
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State of the City: Santa Barbara in great fiscal shape


Santa Barbara is in its best fiscal shape since the Great Recession but faces some hurdles in the short-term, top officials said at the annual State of the City breakfast March 24 at the Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.

City Manager Paul Casey said the city has full-funded general reserves – or 25 percent of one year’s income – for the first time since 2005. He said hotel taxes have been very strong but retail sales taxes are lagging thanks in part to online shopping. Property taxes have been stable and have recovered most of their recession dip, he said.

Santa Barbara faces challenges in some of its enterprise funds and is looking at revenue guarantees to attract airlines to the airport after a 10 percent drop in traffic. Cruise ship visits to the city’s waterfront this year will total 31, bringing in $450,000 in direct revenue.

Mayor Helene Schneider said lower State Street improvements are moving along steadily with some infrastructure projects scheduled for completion later this year. The city’s desalination plant will be online later this year and Santa Barbara may look to provide water to surrounding communities if it has enough supplies, officials said.

Schneider said the city has decided to delay implementation of some controversial bicycle lane proposals. Among the larger capital projects, the city is planning a more than $13 million restoration of the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion on East Beach.

• Contact Henry Dubroff at