Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 8
Mulling Measure M: Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino share their differing opinions of the county maintenance initiative
BY AMY ASMAN
The Brown v. Brown sheriff’s race—incumbent Bill versus sergeant Sandra—is arguably the biggest political face-off in Santa Barbara County’s June 3 primary, especially for residents living north of the Gaviota Tunnel. But there’s another item on the ballot that could greatly impact county coffers, roads, and parks: Measure M-2014.
Last year, 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam and a group of volunteer supporters gathered the more than 13,000 signatures needed to place on the ballot a measure that would require county officials to maintain all county-owned roads, parks, and public buildings at the “same or better” condition that existed at the time of the measure’s passage.
“I drafted it 100 percent and it came from my office, so I will take full responsibility for any good or short comings it might end up having,” Adam told the Sun in a recent interview.
Since taking his seat on the board in January 2013, Adam has been dedicated to tackling the county’s $300 million deferred-maintenance backlog. The freshman supervisor was vocally frustrated at last year’s June budget hearings when his fellow board members voted to allocate approximately only $2 million for road maintenance. Adam proposed adding $8.5 million to the fund, but failed to receive any support.
Adam said after the meeting 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf suggested he put the issue before county voters in the June 2014 primary to see if they would support it.
“You’ve got to fund your maintenance,” he recently told the Sun. “On the farm, if you know something is broken, you run it until you finish the job or you don’t use it because you don’t need it. … But you have to do your fundamental maintenance.”
Rather than establishing a funding source, such as a tax, the County Facilities Maintenance Ordinance would require the county executive officer to present supervisors with an annual report about the condition of county roads and facilities, along with maintenance recommendations from the Public Works Department. The board is prohibited from issuing debt unless voters separately approve it.
“If we don’t tell our politicians that we want our stuff maintained with our money, they’ll never do it,” Adam said. “It’s not sexy to do maintenance. You can’t do a ribbon cutting ceremony for road maintenance. I’m less interested in ceremonies and more interested in getting work done.”
However, it’s not the lack of a ceremony that bothers 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino about Measure M.
While the initiative sounds good on paper, Lavagnino said, it could have a devastating financial impact on the county.
“The county has an $850 million budget, $600 million of which is mandated for specific programs. That leaves a discretionary general fund of approximately $230 to $250 million, half of which goes to public safety,” he said, adding that Measure M is estimated to cost anywhere from $22 million to $46 million per year. “If you take a $40 million chunk out of $230, that’s a rather large chunk.”
According to an impartial analysis done by County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni, “Absent new revenue sources, [implementing Measure M] would result in a major reallocating of county resources away from services they currently support. Program services that could be decreased include Public Safety Services, Health and Human Services, Community Resources, Policy and Executive Services, and General Government and Support Services.
“Since many of these program services are mandated by statute, it may not be possible for the Board of Supervisors to fund the requirements of [Measure M],” the analysis said.
Lavagnino also argues that passage of the maintenance initiative would jeopardize construction of the North County Jail.
“The new jail is expected to cost $18 million to operate,” he said. “If [Measure M] passes, there’s no way we can do both.
“We only get one shot in a lifetime to get the jail … [Measure M] isn’t worth the risk,” he continued.
Additionally, Lavagnino said the county’s Pavement Condition Index, which evaluates the condition of roads based on a scale of 0 to 100, is only a couple points off from the state average.
According to the Public Works Department’s 2013/2014 Road Maintenance Annual Plan, the county’s current PCI is 61 and the statewide average is 66.
“If current funding remains the same, the statewide condition is projected to deteriorate to a PCI of 53 in 2022, and the county’s current average PCI of 61 could drop to a PCI of 42,” the report said.
Adam said that a “D”-equivalent PCI might be OK for Lavagnino and the other supervisors, but it’s not good enough for him—or for county residents.
The other supervisors, he said, “need to stop long-term planning that isn’t necessary, like sea-level studies and plastic bag bans … or go after revenue” in the form projects that generate property tax.
Countered Lavagnino, “I agree with his theory that we have to work on these things. I think he’s got the right idea, the implementation is just wrong.”
The 5th District supervisor thinks the best way to budget maintenance is in smaller, more manageable amounts, like the $2 million the board approved last year.
“Everyone on the board accepts the fact that we need to do more maintenance,” he said.
Contact Managing Editor Amy Asman at email@example.com.