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Santa Monica to Prep for More Ballot Funding Measures
By Jorge Casuso
July 11, 2023 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to take initial steps to place funding measures on the 2024 ballot after voters approved a slew of new taxes last year.
The measures would help the cash-strapped City build new revenue streams after it was set back some $400 million by the coronavirus shutdown and record legal settlements in sexual abuse cases.
"As the City continues its economic recovery, it is imperative to seek additional revenue streams to advance City services and Council priorities," staff wrote in their report to the Council.
"The City is considering potential revenue ballot measures, including, but not limited to, business license tax modernization."
The agenda item recommends the Council enter into a $400,000 five-year contract with TeamCivX, LLC, to "provide strategic advisory and communications services regarding potential ballot measures."
The firm would "evaluate the feasibility of local funding measures and design approved measures for the November 2024 ballot that align with community priorities."
TeamCivX also would "implement informational communication efforts to raise awareness of the City’s needs and potential ballot measures."
The Council vote comes eight months after Santa Monica voters approved three tax measures on the November 2022 ballot to generate new revenues for the City.
Former mayor Sue Himmelrich's transfer tax hike is expcted to bring in an estimated $50 million per year by increasing the tax on real estate transactions to $56 per $1,000 for properties that sell for $8 million or more.
The tax -- which would fund affordable housing, homelessness prevention and public schools -- is currently being challenged in LA County Superior Court by the California Business Roundtable ("Transfer Tax Hike Lawsuit Hearing Set for August," June 7, 2023).
In addition to the revenues generated by the transfer tax, voters approved a bed tax hike on hotels, motels and home shares that is expected to generate an estimated $4.1 million to address homelessness and public safety.
Voters also approved a 10 percent business tax on every licensed cannabis business, which is expected to generate between $3 million and $5 million per year.
The new slate of measures comes after the City has seen a loss of nearly $170 million since 2020, when most businesses were shut down during the coronavirus emergency ("City Revenues to Take Five Years to Recover," March 7, 2023).
In addition, the City has paid $229,825,000 to settle cases filed by 229 plaintiffs who claim they were sexually abused as children by former City employee Eric Uller ("Council Votes to Settle Remaining Sexual Abuse Cases for $122.5 Million," April 25, 2023).
According to Tuesday's staff report, TeamCivX would work with City staff to "discuss the feasibility of revenue ballot measures" and assist "in planning for and evaluating expected voter acceptance of prospective revenue measures."
The firm -- which would partner with the City’s existing polling consulting firm -- also would "assist with the prioritization of multiple options and determine the support threshold for potential measures."
TeamCivX would also partner with the City’s existing polling consulting firm "to design and evaluate a statistically reliable poll of voters in Santa Monica to test potential revenue measure strategies and messaging for the November 2024 ballot."
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