Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 6:32 pm | Mostly Cloudy 55º

County Auditor-Controller Thinks Maintenance Initiative May Not Work

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Auditor-Controller Bob Geis

The Santa Barbara County auditor-controller thinks the Board of Supervisors may not be able to comply with the terms of a proposed infrastructure-maintenance initiative if it is approved by voters. 

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam, who was the lone vote against this year’s county budget, gathered 15,000 signatures to get Measure M on the June 3 ballot.

Measure M, or “Fix Santa Barbara County,” would require the Board of Supervisors to keep all roads, parks and public buildings in the same, or better, condition that existed at the time the ordinance is passed, but offers no funding mechanism.

It’s not a tax, but prioritizes spending differently, Adam says.

Without any new revenue, there would have to be a “major reallocation” of county spending to fulfill the ordinance, Auditor-Controller Bob Geis wrote in his fiscal-impact statement for Measure M.

It could take away money from other department such as public safety and public health.

Since many of those services are mandated, “it may not be possible for the Board of Supervisors to fund the requirements of the ordinance,” Geis wrote in his analysis. 

Measure M doesn’t stop the county from finding new revenue sources, but any debt or new taxes would still have to be approved by voters – things like parcel taxes, general obligation bonds and infrastructure improvement bonds.

The county is still working on a report to outline the current condition of facilities, roads and parks, but Geis estimates that an additional $18 million-$21 million per year is needed to keep everything in the same or better condition it is now.

Roads are measured with a Pavement Condition Index and need another $9 million annually to stay at that level.

The county is trying out a new Facility Condition Index to measure parks and buildings status, and another $9 million to 12 million per year is needed to keep all of those facilities at their current levels, according to the fiscal impact statement.

Measure M already has mixed support among the Board of Supervisors, with Salud Carbajal and Doreen Farr writing the arguments against the measure for the ballot.

Adam recently made a presentation to the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce asking for its support and pointed out that the county’s 1,670 miles of roads are projected to fall back to 1989 conditions by 2020.

That’s after Measure D and Measure A, which poured millions of dollars into street repair and maintenance.

This initiative wouldn’t address the amount of deferred maintenance – fixing things that have already deteriorated – but would try to stop additional deterioration.

If the county can’t find $18 million a year to keep infrastructure from getting worse, Adam told the Chamber of Commerce, it’s not managing itself right.

The County Elections Office won’t release the official documents – including arguments and ballot language – until next week, but Geis submitted the fiscal impact statement early and made it available to the public.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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