Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 1:07 pm | Mostly Cloudy 64º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Goleta Council to Vote on Withdrawing Application for Detachment from GWSD

City officials say questions need to be answered before LAFCO holds hearings on the proposal

A Goleta subcommittee has suggested withdrawing the city’s application to detach from the Goleta West Sanitary District, a decision the City Council will vote on Tuesday.

It took 18 months for the application to be deemed complete by the Local Agency Formation Commission, and a December hearing was scheduled to hear the plan’s merits.

However, there are — and have been — a lot of unknowns regarding the detachment, and the city wants to settle those matters before a LAFCO hearing, City Manager Dan Singer said.

Singer and Councilmen Ed Easton and Roger Aceves made up a subcommittee, and the councilmen asked staff to put the application on hold until the issue of the revenue neutrality agreement is settled with Santa Barbara County. Negotiation meetings are scheduled for December, in which the two parties will discuss where the special district’s property taxes would go if detachment goes through.

“We feel like that needs to happen first,” Singer said. “We’ve always felt that way, always believed some of those issues would be resolved prior to it going before the LAFCO board.”

Additionally, the impacts of passage of Proposition 26 — which now requires a two-thirds vote for certain state and local fees — have to be figured out, as it could affect the city’s ability to control utility rates.

“For us to stand the best chance of a fair hearing, we need to have questions answered,” Singer said.

Singer asked LAFCO to delay the hearing until February, but the board heeded Goleta West’s request for moving the process along. Instead, the city could withdraw the application and resubmit it when ready to proceed, Singer said.

Another big unknown is the future of the unincorporated areas served by Goleta West. The county could decide to detach as well, but the Board of Supervisors first asked for more information regarding detachment from city staff and LAFCO executive officer Bob Braitman. Financial reports from the city and district have been wildly different in their calculations of detachment scenarios.

If Goleta detaches but the county doesn’t, Isla Vista would make up the largest portion of Goleta West’s district and rates would no longer be subsidized by property taxes, as they are now.

Goleta West General Manager Mark Nation has said the district feels “held hostage” because of the uncertainty associated with the proposal.

Singer said the delay could help foster more opportunities for the two groups to meet.

“We’ve had some meetings, and they haven’t gone very well, understandably,” he said. “They feel our proposal is hostile to their existence.”

If the city detaches, there’s a “high priority” it would contract with the Goleta Sanitary District to provide service to the area. The long-term impact of detachment on service rates is unknown, but rates would increase regardless in the next few years because of the cost of improving the Goleta Sanitary District treatment plant.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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