City of Santa Paula Pursues Additional Revenue Opportunities for Further Financial Stability

Santa Paula, CA – At a special session on Wednesday, City of Santa Paula staff and the City Council discussed options for creating and generating new revenue for the City. Following the Council’s discussion, they provided guidance to City staff to research and explore various revenue opportunities including fee adjustments for City services, business license fees, recreation related fees, cannabis regulations and towing franchise fees. The City Council opted not to pursue increasing the City’s existing Transient Occupancy Tax nor implementing a Utility User Tax.

“In addition to critical services such as street repair, public safety and community development, the City of Santa Paula also provides many cherished traditions and unique services to the community such as youth classes, sports, summer camps, senior classes and other annual special events,” said Santa Paula Finance Director Christy Ramirez. “I am pleased that the City Council has given staff direction to pursue additional revenue generating opportunities in order to ensure the City is able to continue providing these services and events for years to come.”

In fiscal year 2017/2018, the City of Santa Paula saw its sales tax revenue base more than double as a result of the City’s voters passing Measure T. However, the City’s most stable revenue source, property taxes, has dropped significantly as a result of the City annexing fire services to the County Fire Department to provide those services to the community. While this decision eliminated the City’s expenses associated with operating its own fire protection services, it also called for 79% of property taxes to be paid to the Ventura County Fire Protection District for its services. As a result, the City has had to rely more heavily on sales tax revenue and revenues from service fees to provide services for the Santa Paula community.

The City’s municipal code allows the City to increase City fees for various services based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in order to accommodate inflation; however, the City’s budget has not applied CPI fee standards in nearly four years. In addition to potentially increasing certain service fees, the City will continue to work towards cost saving measures by creating process efficiencies and refreshing its approach to debt service reduction.

With increased revenue, the City will be able to sustain current services, prepare for future infrastructure projects such as street improvements, replace aging infrastructure and meet the growing needs of the community. The City’s current financial status as a result of significantly decreased property tax collections does not allow the City to plan for long-term fiscal sustainability. In fact, the City is the second lowest in the County in terms of proceeds per capita for General Fund revenues.

Despite these revenue setbacks, the City has experienced financial achievements throughout this past year. The City anticipated significant financial challenges when devising its FY 2020-2021 budget in June of 2020, forcing the City to cut back on certain programs in order to ensure the City’s financial stability. However, the City’s finances fared better than expected, allowing the City to reinvigorate financial allocations for City programs and departments that were reduced in preparation for financial setbacks as a result of the pandemic. These financial achievements, however, are not enough to ensure the City’s financial sustainability in light of reduced revenue from property taxes.

“With Council’s direction to seek additional revenue routes, the City will ensure its programs and services for future generations to come,” said Santa Paula City Manager Dan Singer.

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Michael A....

California is a fiscal mess. People should heed this lesson: when you go to vote, vote for the candidate that wants small government. Big government won’t help you but it will cost a whole lot more. If every voter thought this way California would be in much better shape. Government should be run like you run your house. Cutting corners when necessary, spending big when all other options are exhausted.


You can not expect a city to be financially and fiscally responsible when the Director of Finance can’t get a single revenue report correct. There is no financial strategy because they’re learning as they go. It’s an unending learning curve cycle that the taxpayers carry as a growing burden.

This is what happens when the city hires a person as Director of Finance whose only major experience prior to this position was as a billing clerk for the local water company. I have many questions about this appointment.

  1. Does this “City Director of Finance” have any formal accounting or financial degrees?
  2. Has this individual even successfully completed any Finance courses?
  3. Has this individual ever worked for any other city in a finance management role? Most cities would want to hire an individual with some kind of degree in accounting.

“Any whooo!” So far all financial/fiscal forecasts made by this City Director of Finance have mostly all been incorrect. She seems to have the policy of borrowing from Paul to pay Peter. Unfortunately at this point neither Paul or Peter have any funds to make her numbers add up. We are just in time for the next fiscal year “learning curve.” Just a thought….

Dr. Vanessa White

As a business owner in Santa Paula, we always seem to be the ones who pay for city/county mismanagement. As I recall, didn’t Measure T also go to pay for new positions at city hall as well as giving many employees raises? I was always dumbfounded why a town of 30,000 needed an “assistant city manager.” I bet there’s a lot of fat we could trim in our own city, not to mention what could be done at the county level. On top of this, we (personally) have been screwed by the county on multiple occasions during the pandemic shutdown–forced out of our building yet still forced to pay our county taxes in full? No business rent or tax policies set so we could survive. And now the county is letting all those ppl who defied the shutdown off the hook and they’re getting a free pass as “an act of goodwill”? Yet they handed me a lien on my business in August of 2020 because I couldn’t afford my county tax bill. What about an “act of goodwill” for me since I followed the rules? Instead I have a lien on my business and $75K in back rent I’m being asked to pay. We will simply have to close our doors. We can’t afford this.

Sheryl Hamlin

City Manager Singer eliminated the Assistant City Manager position and replaced with less expensive management analyst. See report here…salary not given…Jonathan Royas

Sheryl Hamlin

Santa Paula has a structural imbalance, as the graphs in this article show. Expenses growing faster than revenue. Measure T helped for a while, fees help for a while, but the CalPERS expenses will eventually overtake, as the graphs show. See gold line in graph. Options such as de-incorporation must be considered.

Sheryl Hamlin

Former City Manager Mike Sedell and FInancial Analyst Frank Castania provided a detailed model of the costs/savings of fire annexation. One important change occurs in 2025 when the tax increment of the 1100 acres now given to the former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) will return to the Santa Paula tax allocation pie which means the VCFPD will get a raise for NO NEW SERVICE because they are already servicing the 1100 acres. The graph in the Sedell/Castania model clearly shows the costs to VCFPD increasing as a step function in the FY 2025/2026. In fact, when Chief Lorenzen spoke at the BOS meeting about theSP annexation, he cited the RDA bump saying it made the Santa Paula deal more attractive! See graph here…

Gayle Washburn

So predictable. Giving so much of our revenue to County Fire was never going to pencil out. Curious about the “refreshing its approach to debt service”. Does that involve the current approach of illegally violating Prop 218 by taking money from the water and sewer funds to cover general fund expenses? Terms like “generating revenue” and “additional revenue opportunities” only mean one thing. Citizens will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the city employee’s salaries and benefits, including unfunded pensions. Community services have withered away. I remember when the city had tennis lessons, karate lessons, art classes, sports leagues, etc. What are these traditions and unique services they refer to? None of that exists anymore.

Sheryl Hamlin

Santa raised its fees enormously in 2016. Developers have complained and renegotiated fees is some cases like the Harvard Medical Building.

chris Cheehan

Santa Paula kept ALL their staff on during the lockdown, and now want the citizens, who were forced to NOT work, to pay more for services to make up the difference

That makes no sense

I thought we were all in this together?