Governance Forum

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   September 13, 2018

On Monday, September 10, Montecito Association (MA) hosted approximately 50 local residents and stakeholders who turned out for a forum on governance options for Montecito. Moderated by Michael Cooney, the forum was an opportunity for residents to get a preliminary look at what incorporation would look like in Montecito, as well as hear the pros and cons of such a move. 

Paul Hood, executive offer of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), showed a PowerPoint presentation explaining several options that may be appropriate for Montecito. Montecito is unique in that although it is located in an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County, it retains local land use planning control via the Montecito Planning Commission and Montecito Board of Architectural Review. Special districts serve the area, including the Montecito Fire Protection District, Montecito Sanitary District, and Montecito Water District. 

One option is to form a multi-purpose special district, or a Community Service District, which would dissolve the MFPD, MSD, and MWD. The CSD would provide District services, and would be run by an elected board of directors. 

A more involved option would be to incorporate to a municipality, which would also serve to dissolve our special districts. There would be a directly elected city council; the City would provide services currently provided to us by the County, including local land use planning. 

Dave Mulinex, regional public affairs manager for the League of California, told the audience there are significant financial implications to incorporation, and reported that no California cities have incorporated since 2011. Mulinex said that Prop 13, which gave the state control over the allocation of property taxes, has caused California cities to diversify their revenue sources, since only 16 to 20 cents out of each property tax dollar is kept locally. He said the main reason that areas such as Montecito choose to incorporate is for increased public safety, land use authority, and control over finances. “It doesn’t make fiscal sense for most communities,” he said.   

Several members of the audience suggested that the Montecito Association form a subcommittee to look into the cost of having a formal study prepared to look at the financial implications of incorporation in Montecito. The MA will discuss the next steps at a future meeting. 


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