Every year community organizations come to the city of Solvang, hats in hand, asking for money. Every year — well, almost every year — city officials grant their requests.
The ritual was repeated last week, with the anticipated results. The City Council agreed to hand out $1.2 million, which is about $113,000 more than city staff recommended, and an amount that shoved the city’s budget deficit to around $800,000.
So, why would a council majority agree to increase grant funding that caused a larger budget deficit? Good question, and one answered by City Attorney Roy Hanley, who explained the “deficit” actually is on paper only. The extra $800,000 is money the city has saved to be spent on other, unspecified projects.
Much of the grant-giving meeting was consumed in debate over what to give two agencies, the Chamber of Commerce and Conference and Visitors Bureau, both of which received less than was requested, thus sparking a semi-heated discussion.
The argument in favor of awarding the full amount requested was based on the value the city receives from Chamber and CVB activities, specifically in the promotion of Solvang as a tourist destination, because tourists are paying a lot of the city’s bills through hotel bed and sales taxes.
In fact, that argument is valid, as those two taxes are the two major revenue sources for the city.
Our question is, and has been for a number of years — just how much stimulation does the local tourism industry actually need?
Over the years Solvang has acquired a global reputation as the place to visit — and spend money — for anyone passing through California.
Those years of building a reputation need some prodding, but the question is, how much?
We don’t have the answer, but we are fairly confident the city’s leaders will continue to have spirited discussions about just how much publicity Solvang really needs.
One other request got council members a bit riled. The council agreed to table discussion about how much to give the Solvang Library, at least until mother-ship Santa Barbara city and county decide how much they’re willing to contribute. The Solvang Library is part of that larger network.
Such relationships can be and usually are difficult. For example, look how poorly California counties are treated by the state when it comes to budget matters and funding allocations.
All of which means, until the city of Santa Barbara and the county commit to a certain level of funding, the Solvang City Council is, and should be, in a holding pattern on the library.
We can’t disagree with the council’s final funding gifts to community groups, most of which serve multiple purposes and help a great number of local residents. There also is the matter of Measure Z, which Solvang voters recently approved after city officials made a compelling case that revenue raised from a higher hotel bed tax would be funneled back into the community. In that regard, mission accomplished.
The groups receiving grants reads like a who’s who of Solvang help agencies. One prime example is People Helping People, which year in and year out assists more residents than some might care to admit. Yes, even in this bucolic, picture-book community there are people who need assistance.
All things considered, the city staff and council members did a great job of funding.