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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 2:07 am | Fair 50º


Goleta Council Votes to Rescind Proposal to Detach from GWSD

City officials cite unfinished business that needs to be resolved before proceeding with hearings

A rather short discussion Tuesday marked the suspension of a rather protracted battle over the City of Goleta’s proposed detachment from the Goleta West Sanitary District.

The Goleta City Council voted to rescind the resolution it approved more than a year ago to pursue the detachment of parcels within the city limits served by GWSD from the special district, citing pending issues.

Nearly two years ago, the city announced its intentions to take under its wing the sanitation responsibilities for the parcels generally west of Los Carneros Road in Goleta. As it is, the city is served by two sanitary districts, with discrepancies in rates and differences in funding. GWSD existed before the passage of Proposition 13, which means it collects property taxes in addition to the user fees it charges.

The reason the city gave for this attempt was to better protect the money collected by the district from the state, and to level the playing field with the Goleta Sanitary District, which serves the east side of town.

GWSD board members were leery of the move, which would take out a significant portion of their revenue and jurisdiction, saying the city was interested only in taking the money they saved from property tax revenue — about $20 million. The money is expected to fund the GWSD portion of major infrastructure upgrades at the sanitation plant it shares with GSD. They repeatedly expressed doubts that the city could handle the new responsibility.

However, given unfinished matters that the city had hoped would have been settled by now, city staff recommended a withdrawal of the detachment efforts at least until they were settled.

One is the city’s revenue neutrality agreement with the county. As a condition of incorporation, the city’s founding parents entered into a tax-sharing agreement to have a certain percentage of certain taxes collected by the city forwarded to the county. The city is in talks with the county to renegotiate those taxes, but success has been elusive.

“We were hoping we would have finished with that by now,” City Manager Dan Singer said.

In addition, the recent passage of Proposition 26, which affects certain state and local fees, could impact the detachment, Singer said, adding that the county Board of Supervisors hasn’t had a chance to discuss the effects of detachment on county territory, such as Isla Vista.

“We believe it is in the best interest of our community to have concrete answers to these questions,” Mayor Eric Onnen said in a statement issued by the city. “When we initiated the process, we believed our revenue neutrality discussions would be completed by the time our application was ready for hearing (by the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO). Although the process has taken longer than expected, we are committed to seeing it through.”

It’s not over yet for the city or the district, as the city has expressed that it may take up its detachment again in the future.

The Goleta West Sanitary District can breathe a sigh of relief — however brief it may be.

For the moment, the rescinding of the resolution to pursue detachment is a good sign to Director Larry Meyer that the cost to ratepayers in the district will be kept low. It also will keep the Goleta Valley area from having more sanitary districts than it needs, he said. Plus, the money earmarked for the sanitation facility upgrade would not disappear into the city’s coffers.

But the district will be vigilant, Meyer said.

“We’re going to be keeping our eyes on the situation,” he said.

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

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