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Future Santa Monica Ballot Could Feature Parks-Funding Tax Measure  
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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

April 24, 2017 -- Santa Monica does not have enough parks, and there is not enough money in the budget to increase the number or to upgrade the existing ones.

That is the current state of affairs, according to Karen Ginsberg, Santa Monica’s director of community and cultural services.

What could alter this situation is a new tax, or “local funding measure,” as Ginsberg called it in a report that will be reviewed by the City Council at its meeting on Tuesday.

Ginsberg has recommended the council authorize Goodwin Simon Strategic Research to conduct a scientific poll of residents to determine if they are interested in a parks tax measure for the November 2018 ballot.

Goodwin Simon has done previous polls for the City, including two that led to Measure GSH, a half-cent sales tax proposal that voters approved last year to fund public schools and affordable housing programs.

Although Santa Monica has expanded its total parkland in the past 20 years from 112.7 acres to 137 acres, Ginsberg wrote, the city is significantly below the countywide average.

Santa Monica has 1.4 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and the county average is 3.3 acres.

“While expanding park acreage in Santa Monica is desired, future funding for parks expansion and for upgrades to existing parks will be very limited due to budget realities, hampering the ability to implement a number of the projects that Council has already funded for design,” Ginsberg wrote.

The most money can be generated through a general obligation bond (no specific financial numbers are included in the report) that would be repaid through an increase to residents’ tax bill, according to Ginsberg.

This bond proposal would require two-thirds support for passage.

Santa Monica officials have some idea about voter interest in parks-funding tax measures based on polling last year by Goodwin Simon. While funding for parks did not spark as much interest as funding for schools, it was high.

The poll determined 62 percent of voters would have supported a half-cent sales tax measure that funded affordable housing and parks.

This was approximately the same percentage that approved what ended up being on the ballot -- a half-cent sales tax supporting schools and affordable housing.

Sixty-two percent support would not be enough to pass the type of tax being proposed this time, but opinions could differ because the type of tax would be different.

Santa Monica residents who voted last year are familiar with parks funding tax measures.

A parcel tax to fund parks improvements countywide (Measure A) was on the November 2016 ballot. It was approved by nearly 75 percent of county voters and received more than 79 percent support in Santa Monica.

That measure will bring $10 million into Santa Monica over the next 10 years and make the City eligible for further competitive grants, according to Ginsberg.

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