The first year of voter-approved cannabis tax revenues brought in $6.7 million for Santa Barbara County, which is higher than expected, and the Board of Supervisors decided not to spend the surplus yet.
Budget staff recommending leaving the $1,066,000 in the general fund reserves until the next budget workshops, in the spring, and the supervisors agreed.
The board talked about whether to spend the money, and what to spend it on. Most of the revenues have paid for enforcement, permit processing, and other costs related to the cannabis program, but they can be used for any general fund purposes.
“All this cannabis money is not just going to be spent on cannabis issues, I don’t think that’s what people expected,” Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said Tuesday.
First District Supervisor Das Williams pushed to allocate the $1 million to a list of equipment and projects, ranging from THC analyzers (to distinguish hemp from marijuana plants) to grants for bike and pedestrian paths. His motion to spend half of the money was rejected on a 4-1 vote.
The county expected $5.45 million of cannabis tax revenues in the 2018-19 year, which ended June 30.
The current fiscal year budget estimates $5.615 million in cannabis taxes. The budget allocated $2.8 million of it to enforcement, and $330,000 to tax collection and administration, according to the County Executive Office.
The county says the $2.1 million costs for licensing and permitting will be covered through program fees.
Additional employees have been hired to work on the enforcement team, process applications to grow marijuana, track revenues, conduct outreach for growers, and a lot more.
Departments have already requested more than $1 million in funding for additional enforcement, and the County Executive Office expects even more requests in the coming months, according to Assistant County Executive Officer Jeff Frapwell.
In June, the Board of Supervisors’ deliberations on the $1 billion 2019-20 budget included how to spend unspent cannabis tax revenues, and the supervisors decided to put it toward cannabis tax compliance, library funding and other programs.