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Flush with cannabis tax revenues that came in more than $1 million higher than estimated for the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider a range of purchases and projects to spend the money on at Tuesday’s meeting in Santa Barbara.

Supervisors also will consider potential changes to the cannabis retail and business license processes to address concerns raised by the public and county staff and provide more definitive procedures.

Cannabis tax revenue for last fiscal year exceeded estimates by $1.04 million, according to a staff report from the County Executive Office.

When that amount is added to the $260,000 balance in the cannabis tax fund and the 18%, or $234,000, allocated by county policy to maintenance is subtracted, supervisors will have $1.066 million to either leave in the fund, allocate for one-time expenses or contribute to the ongoing costs of enforcement, according to the report.

Allocating the funds would require a “yes” vote by four of the five supervisors.

One-time purchases and programs recommended by the staff include spending $54,000 to purchase three handheld TCH analyzers for the Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team to use for determining if a crop is hemp or cannabis masquerading as hemp to avoid state and county regulations.

Another potential use would be adding outdoor fitness equipment or new sports courts at four county parks, at costs ranging from $250,000 to $325,000, to encourage residents to participate in healthy activities.

Supervisors also could choose to spend $450,000 to $550,000 to install charging equipment for the 250 electric-powered vehicles the county plans to purchase over the next five to seven years to replace gas-powered vehicles in the county’s fleet, thus expediting the transition.

Another potential set of projects to improve pedestrian and cycling facilities throughout the county would cost an estimated $375,000 and would involve school access improvements, repairing and filling gaps in sidewalks and pedestrian pathways and expanding or improving bike paths.

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The board could instead decide to put the funds toward cannabis enforcement operations to supplement the $2.8 million already allocated in the 2019-20 budget.

According to the staff report, two departments involved in cannabis enforcement have already requested additional funds that exceed the $1.066 million available.

Staff has proposed a number of potential changes to procedures for selecting cannabis retail storefront operators and issuing them business licenses.

Residents are concerned the random-selection process for awarding retail licenses to prequalified applicants doesn’t provide a way of identifying the high-quality operators and could lead to licenses being awarded to less-than-desirable businesses.

Options the board may consider include developing a three-step, quality-based prequalification or selection process based on scores assigned to applications by a county-appointed committee or a third-party contractor, possibly with final selections being made at a public hearing.

As part of that process, the board could require applicants to submit a business operations proposal or a neighborhood compatibility proposal or both to assist in the ranking process.

Currently, the County Code identifies information applicants must submit but isn’t specific about the format, so staff has offered options to limit the application size, set the application period and specify elements required.

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