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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Janet and David Leathem couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate five decades of love.

But Santa Barbara represents a huge change from what they are used to in Portland, Oregon.

“One of the advantages of Portland is that there is no sales tax, so that’s a big change when you come here to California. But we were aware of that,” Janet Leathem said.

Tourism represents a large part of Santa Barbara’s economy. Sales tax and local taxes are the largest sources of revenue for the general fund.

“We are taxed so heavily now. It’s just a part of life. It’s a part of life,” say Dustin Chao and Tyah Ejan, who are visiting from Los Angeles.

Keith Demartini, Santa Barbara’s finance director, says it’s been an interesting year from a financial perspective.

“We saw a lot of pent-up demand in the tourism industry because of our tax revenue here in the city of Santa Barbara and the sales tax and the transient occupancy tax as people were coming here, visiting and spending money here locally. But that trend has definitely leveled off and stabilized. It’s not growing as fast as it was a few years ago, it’s definitely leveled off,” Demartini said.

The City of Santa Barbara has budgeted approximately $28 million in transient occupancy tax revenue this year.

Now a value of around 27 million dollars is expected.

There is currently a proposal to increase the hotel tax in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County if a survey shows there is sufficient public support for it – an increase that some tourists say is not a problem.

“I think if it benefits the community to keep them safe and keep the locals safe and people like us who come to visit, then to me personally it’s worth that extra expense,” said Dustin Chao, who is visiting from Los Angeles.

The transient occupancy tax currently accounts for 12 percent of hotel stays in Santa Barbara.

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